It's a good-news, bad-news kind of situation when it comes to planning how to move tens of thousands of people to and from Salt Lake's Olympic venues.
The good news is that Salt Lake's wide, straight streets are well-suited to handle the kind of traffic the Olympic Games will bring. The bad news is there will probably be more traffic for the 2002 Winter Games than any recent Winter Games, perhaps ever, says Tom Halleran, director of transportation for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and a veteran of planning transportation at Olympic games in Los Angeles, Barcelona, Lillehammer, Atlanta and Nagano.And the Salt Lake strategy is a simple one: "We look and learn from previous Olympics," Halleran said. "Their successes will be our successes."
For example, Halleran is impressed with how the Nagano organizers have incorporated some 1,000 buses into the Olympics transportation system but have not experienced serious traffic delays or congestion - despite the fact the streets here are narrow and rarely straight.
"We will need a few more than that (1,000 buses)," Halleran said. "We have larger venues, and we will have larger crowds."
The higher traffic load will also be in large part a function of economics. It will be less expensive for people to travel to Salt Lake City, and it will be cheaper once they get there. And the lower costs are expected to attract thousands more visitors to Utah.
For example, there are 8,000 journalists in Nagano. Some 10,000 journalists are expected for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
At a press conference Tuesday, Halleran said he has been in contact with private bus companies around the West, and he believes there are enough coaches to handle the media's needs without resorting to more drastic measures. SLOC might also implement a van shuttle system during low-demand times that would be much less costly that full-sized buses.
He has also been in contact with federal authorities about the possibility of "borrowing" buses from transit systems elsewhere in the United States. Those buses would be used to transport spectators.
To handle the sheer numbers of visitors, Halleran is looking at several options that appear to have worked well at other Olympic sites. One is to dedicate certain highway lanes for Olympic traffic only.
While that may be inconvenient for Utah motorists, "I believe we can do it without unnecessarily burdening the public," he said.
He will also be working with Utah taxi companies, which are a "very important and much-needed service" during the Olympics.