The 2012 Democratic National Convention held in Charlotte, N.C., drew approximately 35,000 visitors and Charlotte Area Transit System’s Lynx Blue Line experienced its highest multi-day average ridership transportation, an average of 32,708 passengers per day.
Super Bowl XLVI saw a record number of visitors leading up to the game with more than a quarter of a million people visiting the Super Bowl Village in 2012.
The 2013 Presidential Inauguration brought at least 1 million people to the National Mall for the swearing-in ceremony.
Large mega events bring with them unique challenges, including security precautions, certain restrictions, and of course the out-of-town visitors that aren’t familiar with your system. Not to mention your usual riders who don’t want the hassle of changes to their routines.
Not Your Normal Convention
“It’s a national security event with a whole different level of preparation,” said Charlotte Area Transit System Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Flowers when talking about the Democratic National Convention.
There was not only the coordination between the host committee and all levels of public safety, there were also the federal forces involved,including the Secret Service. Flowers said, “We had a standing president so we had a lot of coordination between ourselves, the Mecklenburg Police Department, the FBI and our department.” She added, “Security was the critical driver.”
Directly across the street from the arena, the venue for the DNC, is the Charlotte Transportation Center, the main connecting hub for CATS bus and rail routes, including 70 percent of the bus service. With such close proximity to the event, it was a security concern and an alternative was needed.
“There was a lot of time looking at options to providing daily service as well as providing assistance to the convention,” said Flowers. “The No. 1 priority is that you have to take care of your daily passenger. We had to come up with options for providing that service that would fit the security parameters.”
A lot of time was spent coordinating the temporary facility, rerouting buses and ensuring the passenger amenities. All of the administrative staff that wasn’t working in the dispatch centers was recruited to be ambassadors to ensure customer communication. Flowers said, “The transit ambassadors were key to having information out there ahead of time. We did a lot to prepare the public in advance.”
Ahead of time, CATS went around to major businesses to discuss the impact and outreach events at the transit center to prepare riders. They also put out literature and prepared a pamphlet on doing business on transit during the DNC. Flowers said, “We had a detour map and tried to provide information in advance.”
Over five days with 70 percent of service effected, CATS was accommodating 83,000 riders a day. Flowers added, “All of our rail passengers were impacted because we could not run all the way into uptown.”
With all of the detours and all of the VIPs being moved around, there were plenty of challenges. There were also things like spontaneous protests affecting the agency on a daily basis.
“Transit was able to provide mobility options for people coming to events,” Flowers said. The temporary transit center was set up on the street and they learned a lot because they didn’t expect the weather the way it was — torrential rain. “We learned a bit and made adjustments to provide shelter on the street,” said Flowers. “In the future we’ll look at the way we set up to replicate the amenities, such as food trucks and shelter.”
For the Presidential Inauguration, First Transit General Manager William Copling said of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Circulator, they were planning to discontinue regular revenue route service and implementing a modified shuttle service to transport all of the attendees who were coming on the charter buses to RFK Stadium to attend the event.