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.
Developing a regional transportation plan for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) was complex because it involved multiple agencies, often with overlapping jurisdictions and priorities. Staff at many of these agencies were not accustomed to working closely with staff at other agencies in the course of day-to-day operations, and political turf battles often arose at the senior levels of the various agencies.
Development of the operations plan was slow and painstaking because there were numerous state, local, and regional agencies involved, and there was no single person with final authority over the plan. In order to ensure interagency coordination in the design of a management and operations plan, the DNC Host Committee convened a weekly meeting of all interested transportation and security officials. Attendees were decision-makers and senior operations staff for the various agencies, which allowed decisions and adjustments to be made quickly. Ultimately, the representatives of the various transportation and security entities pulled together and worked collaboratively. When interviewed, many interviewees stated that 18 months was not enough time to properly plan for the convention. All the interviewees (federal, state, and local) stressed the importance of early planning, consistent and appropriate agency participation and regularly scheduled meetings.
- Build trust among federal, state and local partners early in the planning process. Many of the federal players had not worked with state or local officials; even the locals were often strangers to each other. Moreover, some agency staffs had occasionally been adversaries. Building trust among such disparate players takes time. So does the recognition of partnering opportunities—a full inventory of all available resources should happen early.
- Develop a regional operations plan for the special event. Transportation engineers and security officials initially had conflicting missions, different perspectives, and opposing priorities. It took many protracted meetings over 18 months to understand each other's needs and requirements.
This lesson points out that the complex challenges of the 2004 DNC forced various agencies and their staff to work together in ways that had not occurred in the past. Project time needs to be allocated for facilitating and accommodating interagency relationship-building. Transportation and security agencies practiced and refined security activities, and different levels of staff and management learned to work together. Several interviewees commented that the bonds formed before and during the convention continue to help resolve day-to-day transportation issues.
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