Intelligent Transportation Systems at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games: Event Study Traffic Management and Traveler Information
In preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Salt Lake City, Utah deployed the following ITS technologies:
- One hundred and twenty (120) miles of instrumented freeways continuously monitoring traffic flow.
- Two hundred and eighteen (218) closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) on freeways and surface streets.
- Sixty-three (63) dynamic message signs (DMS) spread across the region.
- Twelve (12) highway advisory radio (HAR) transmitters.
- Thirty (30) roadway-weather information system (RWIS) data-collection stations.
- A centralized control system encompassing 608 traffic signals, with over 1200 special signal-timing plans for regular traffic plus Olympic venues and events.
- Freeway on-ramp metering at 23 locations.
- Three hundred and fifty (350) miles of fiber-optic cable, plus extensive telephone and wireless links.
- The CommuterLink Web site delivering traffic, Olympics, and other information.
- A 511 telephone service delivering traffic and other information.
- A new light-rail system (TRAX) with traffic-signal preemption and other ITS features.
- A Traffic Operations Center (TOC) serving as the nerve center for all the above.
- Satellite Traffic Control Centers serving other transportation agencies and linked to the TOC.
A visitor survey and a resident survey were conducted to evaluate user perceptions with respect to ITS technologies designed to provide traveler information to travelers. Visitors were queried via intercept surveys while waiting in line to enter downtown venues. Residents who participated were randomly selected from the Salt Lake City phone book and contacted via telephone. Both surveys were conducted during the second half of the Olympic Games, by the same survey crew, using a highly-similar set of questions designed to evaluate user perceptions of the following ITS technologies:
- CommuterLink website (CLW).
- 511 telephone service (511).
- Dynamic message signs (DMS).
- Highway advisory radio (HAR).
The CommuterLink website was operated by the Utah UDOT (UDOT) and controlled by computer servers at the TOC. The website homepage provided a map of the freeway system and major surface streets, and showed where most of the surveillance equipment was installed. During the Games, the following categories of information were provided on the website: Traffic Conditions (speeds, incidents); Roadway conditions (closures and construction); and Weather (including pavement surface conditions).
The 511 telephone service operated by the Utah DOT was entirely automated, using a computerized voice-recognition and voice-response system. The 511 service delivered these four categories of information during the Games: Traffic Incidents; Roadway Conditions; Public Transit Information; and Olympics information.
The evaluation of user perception of DMS and Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) was limited to visitors in the Salt Lake City area. These systems were used by the Utah DOT to manage traffic and disseminate traveler information on park-and-ride lots, directions to venues, and other general information.
Responses to the visitor survey (n=448) showed that 41 percent of visitors were aware of the website and 34 percent used it. Responses to the resident survey (n=242) showed that 70 percent of residents were aware of the website and 21 percent used it. Overall, 98 percent of visitors and 97 percent of residents who used the website said it worked well for them. Both visitors and residents indicated that they used the website to obtain the following types of information:
- Traffic information (61 percent of visitors; 100 percent of residents).
- Road conditions (3 percent of visitors; 24 percent of residents).
- Olympics information - travel options and event operations (39 percent of visitors; 12 percent of residents).
- Weather information (0 percent of visitors; 3 percent of residents).
- Other information (23 percent of visitors; 15 percent of residents).
(Note: The results for the Olympics category may have been inflated since some respondents may not have distinguished the official Olympics website with the Utah DOT website.)
511 telephone information system
During the first two days of the Olympic Games, the system received approximately 3000 to 4000 calls per day. Usage quickly dropped to 1000 to 2000 calls per day during the remainder of the Games.
Both residents and visitors were surveyed with respect to their perception of the telephone information service. Responses to the visitor survey (n=443) showed that 25 percent of visitors were aware of the 511 service and 17 percent used it. Overall, 75 percent of visitors who used the system said it worked well for them. Usage by residents, however, was limited. Responses to the resident survey (n=242) showed that 44 percent of residents were aware of the 511 service; however, only 4 percent (4 respondents) used it. Visitors who used 511 queried the following types of information:
- Traffic menu (63 percent of visitors).
- Transit menu (37 percent of visitors).
- Olympics menu (42 percent of visitors).
- Road conditions menu (16 percent of visitors).
Dynamic Message Signs (DMS)
Responses to the visitor survey (n=444) indicated that 89 percent of the 71 percent of visitors who reported seeing DMS on the roadway found them helpful.
Highway Advisory Radio (HAR)
Responses to the visitor survey (n=439) indicated that 76 percent of the 40 percent of visitors who reported seeing HAR signs on the roadway found them helpful. (Note: It is possible that some respondents did not distinguish between other commercial broadcast radio and the HAR service.)