Conceptual Issues in Planning a Special Events Public Transportation Network: the Case of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games

Conceptual Issues in Planning a Special Events Public Transportation Network: the Case of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games


M Karlaftis, K Kepaptsoglou, A Starra, National Technical University of Athens; A Kalapoutis, I Patrikalakis, Athens Public Transport Organisation, GR



The 2004 Olympic Games will be held in Athens, Greece, a city with many traffic related problems due to lack of adequate urban space, high population density and a relatively inadequate road and intermodal transportation infrastructure. In the period shortly preceding and during the Olympic Games, thousands of people including athletes, personnel and spectators must be transported to the Olympic venues, hotels, tourist attractions, ports, train stations and the Athens International airport. Because the existing physical infrastructure is plagued by a number of problems such as a highly congested road network and a lack of adequate parking facilities, the use of private vehicles and taxis by all of the involved parties is not a viable option. For these reasons, the main transportation needs during the Olympic Games will be largely based on the use of all modes of public transportation such as buses, electric buses, Metro, suburban rail and tram.

Until the time of the Olympic Games, Athens will have a public transportation network that will include three metro lines, a suburban rail line, two tram lines and a very dense bus and electric bus network. The fixed route systems such as the Metro, the tram and the suburban rail lines are expected to carry most of the Olympic Games spectators and working personnel. More than twenty new bus lines will be established, facilitating Olympic venues by connecting them with metro and suburban rail stations, park-n-ride stations in the entrances of the Athens metropolitan area or with popular downtown spots in Athens. Since in the majority of the Olympic venues access to the metro lines is not directly available, buses will be the main means of transportation to and from the athletic facilities. The existing bus lines will, in turn, be used to collect passengers from Athens neighborhoods and act as feeders to the dedicated Olympic bus lines and the remainder of the transportation network. By establishing this philosophy, spectators will be discouraged from using the private automobiles except to and from park-n-ride stations. The basis of the whole system is that bus lines and park-n-ride areas will be used to feed the metro and tram lines as well as the dedicated Olympic bus lines; of-course, an interaction between all of the above modes may be necessary and is being anticipated.

Planning for the provision of public transport services during such a special event is a tedious and complicated process that requires the consideration and inclusion of a large number of parameters. Some of the most important parameters required in the planning process include: first, the conceptual planning of the entire transportation network that includes an Olympic ring road network for automobile use and that of the four different modes of public transportation; second, the interoperability of the various parts of this system, with particular care given to the integration of the different transport modes with a goal of achieving, to the degree possible, the seamless travel of fans and workers using a variety of modes; third, the determination of the dedicated travel lanes to be used by the vehicles transporting the Olympic family (athletes, trainers, judges and reporters) and the public transport modes transporting fans and workers; fourth, the planning and design of the routing path, stops and hours of operation of the dedicated bus lines that will operate only for a limited period of time; fifth, the determination of the operational characteristics of the bus and metro service on the dedicated Olympic lines; sixth, the incorporation of the dedicated Olympic lines into the existing feeder network; seventh, the planning, design, and operating characteristics of the park-n-ride stations that operate in the outskirts of the city; eight, the examination of unforeseen situations (emergency management) that need to be considered. Moreover, a number of smaller issues further complicates the process of providing public transport services during such a special event.

The goal of this paper is to outline the network design philosophy and offer some insights that have been gained by the public transportation study team responsible for the provision of these services during the Olympic Games. The manner in which the issues overviewed above are taken into consideration during the planning stage, and dealt with in practice, are extensively discussed. The methodologies utilized, including multicriteria analysis and optimization techniques, are presented. Particular care is given in the paper to offer insights into the transferability of the experience to other cities that plan special events with heavy use of public transportation.


Association for European Transport