Take advantage of special events opportunities to inspire interagency cooperation and deployment of advanced transportation management technologies.
Boston, Massachusetts' experience with transportation planning for special events.
Made Public Date


United States

Transportation Management and Security During the 2004 Democratic National Convention


The purpose of this study was to determine how transportation planning for special events is best conducted when mobility considerations are subordinated to security priorities. The subject of this study was the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC), held at the FleetCenter, a multipurpose sports facility located in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, from July 26 through July 29, 2004. This event was designated a National Special Security Event by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security. This designation established the U.S. Secret Service as the lead agency because security measures would take precedence over other actions, such as providing mobility to delegates and residents. The role of transportation agencies was to implement procedures that would accommodate the security measures developed for the convention. Lessons learned from this experience include: selecting major event sites with security as the primary consideration; planning sufficient time for facilitating and accommodating interagency relationship-building; keeping the public informed with current accurate information so they are able to make knowledgeable travel decisions; taking advantage of special events opportunities, which inspire the improvement of existing and new technologies; and establishing a clear leader and command structure when working on a major, interagency project.

Lessons Learned

Typical transportation operation plans are driven by goals such as mobility and air quality. In the case of the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Boston, security took precedence over mobility and traffic flow. This high profile event afforded the Boston region the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and improve their existing ITS systems sooner than expected, providing long-lasting benefits to the region. When a special event opportunity presents itself, the following issues should be considered to inspire the improvement of existing or new technologies.

  • Make use of national events to foster regional cooperation and expedite deployment of advanced transportation management systems. The 2004 DNC in Boston provided the impetus to reach an inter-agency agreement on the installation and operation of a video/data sharing ITS application. The proposed Massachusetts Interagency Video Information System (MIVIS) had been in the planning process for years, but had not received funds for implementation. The convention provided the rational for allocating funds to implement the system.
  • Focus on the need to better integrate various systems. The unique security and mobility demands of the DNC, along with the hard-and-fast July 29, 2004 deadline, forced transportation and public safety agencies to be innovative. Multiple state and local agencies coordinated resources to allow the system to be operational in time for the convention. Agencies involved included MassHighway, Massachusetts State Police, the City of Boston, the MBTA, and SmarTraveler. The system coordinated several hundred existing cameras throughout Eastern Massachusetts and allowed both safety and transportation officials to view live video and camera shots of key locations. Additionally, public safety officials were provided with hand-held PDA devices allowing for real-time traffic information as they were making decisions on which roads to open or close.
  • Integrate technology with other agencies and build on that integration for future expansion of the ITS Architecture. The various agencies used existing ITS technologies installed over the past two decades to better inform the public. This included the use of both permanent and temporary variable message signs (VMS's), highway advisory radio, static sign boards, and an expansion of services from SmarTraveler, which provides real-time traffic information to the Boston traveling public under a contract with MassHighway.

    As part of its integrated VMS system, MassHighway was able to post and change messages on its permanent set of message boards almost instantaneously. The video integration system allowed officials from different agencies to view real-time images from cameras mounted at multiple locations. SmarTraveler was able to post changes in roadway or transit conditions instantaneously on its website and phone system.

This lesson illustrates that for large-scale events as well as for day-to-day operations, transportation agency officials should explore ways to provide as much information as possible and as quickly as possible to: monitor situations, share information, manage operations, respond to incidents, make critical decisions, and allow the public to make informed choices. This should include the use of the media, agency websites displaying video, agency publications, public meetings, and other outside sources.

Transportation Management and Security During the 2004 Democratic National Convention

Transportation Management and Security During the 2004 Democratic National Convention
Publication Sort Date
Allan DeBlasio et al
Prepared by Volpe for the USDOT

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