Monday, June 3, 2013

Travel Demand Management for London Olympics 2012

The London Congestion Charge was not the only travel demand management tool employed by Transport for London during the Olympics in 2012. This post looks into some of  measures taken by TfL to manage travel demand during the Games.

With an estimated 20 million visitors expected to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games the transport network was poised to experience “substantial increases” in travel demand, says Rose McArthur, SKM Practice Leader in sustainable travel ‘with extensive experience in developing strategies to improve travel choices. London 2012 and the Transport for London (TfL) had deemed the 2012 Games as the first ‘public transport Games’, meaning that, “100 percent of visitors were asked to travel to the Games on public transport, by bicycle or on foot”. It was noted that on the busiest day some 800,000 spectators opted for public transport, resulting in approximately 3 million surplus trips. In such a scenario, travel demand management was critical to ensure the smooth operation of transportation and all those affected by London’s transport system and the Games.  

TfL and London Olympics 2012 were determined to keep London ‘open for business’ throughout the 2012 summer. The Travel Advice for Business TAB﴿ Programme, aimed at supporting business travel during the Games, in partnership with London businesses conducted an in-depth analysis to ensure continued successful travel for the foreseeable congested summer, which shows that:

“The transport challenge would be focused on certain times and in certain locations-primarily in central London, around Games venues and on the Olympic and Paralympic Route Network. The Travel Demand Management program encouraged individuals and businesses to change their travel plans, freight and delivery arrangements through greater understanding of the likely disruption to their journey.”

This was followed by initiatives for a large scale ‘behavior change’ aimed at the vast array of London commuters over the course of the Olympics. The TAB initiated Travel Information Systems tools, such as the Spectator Journey Planner and the Get Ahead of the Games commuter tool, were designed to aid with all facets of travel from bookings to walking and cycling in and outside London. Many of these TAB programs were specific to businesses in located in areas that were anticipated to “suffer from the greatest highway and public transport congestion during the games – and have at least 200 staff.”

Through continued meetings and strategy sessions (such as collating staff behavior and sentiments) with the businesses, a customized tool kit, Keep on Running, was created to provide an ‘Action Plan’ for the impacted businesses for both the immediate Games as well as the long-term.

Surveys to analyze and understand staff behavior and sentiments – this figure shows likelihood to change travel behavior to avoid disruption during the Games.

Freight and local services were also planned for in much detail. The Freight Advice Programme was aimed at London’s major wholesale markets to provide guidance and support. Several measures were also taken to ensure continued high quality services of local businesses, which were critical to the smooth running of the Olympics. Among other things, free advice in the form of more than 200 free TfL workshops was provided to businesses in ‘hot spot’ areas to ensure that London's grocery stores, service stores and the restaurant industry remain stocked during the length of the Games. This program also sent, “Teams of advisors to visit retailers, pubs and restaurants in transport 'hot spot' areas to offer face-to-face advice.”

In short, the TAB encouraged the following principles to manage travel demand:
  • Reducing the need to travel
  •  Re-timing the intended journey
  • Re-mode, primary mode shift from public transport to walking and cycling
  • Re-routing to less busy routes on the road and public transport networks 

The attention to detail in all the initiatives has several useful lessons for travel demand management world over. The Olympics were successful as special care was taken to ensure that all systems in a city dependent on transportation were taken care of along with a high level of customer satisfaction.

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