Los Angeles’ traffic miracle during 1984 Olympics

July 19th, 2008 - 10:08 am ICT by IANS  

By Yang Qingchuan
Washington, July 19 (Xinhua) The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was probably the most impressive of the many Olympics the US has hosted. That’s not only because it was the first Olympic Games that really made profits, but also because it was congestion-free in a city that had been notorious for its traffic snarls.

It was a miracle because when the 1984 Games were to start, Los Angeles had more motor vehicles than any other metropolises around the world.

A traffic nightmare seemed inevitable with 25,000 athletes, coaches, officials and some six million visitors coming to attend the 16-day event.

Some researchers had forewarned that the Olympics could bring “traffic jams of such a magnitude that the entire community could come to a standstill.”

But the worst never came.

Despite all the odds, traffic plannings played their parts during the Games. The traffic kept moving in streets and freeways of the city.

Congestion was reduced by about 60 percent, and truck traffic was down by asmuch as 16 percent during the rush hours.

The miracle surprised many, including Peter Ueberroth, chairman of US Olympic committee and the head of the Los Angeles Olympic organization committee.

In a usually-most-congested Friday rush hour, Ueberroth was sitting in a helicopter above one of the most congested freeway interchanges in downtown Los Angeles. To his surprise, he could even count the cars as they passed below.

“Any city can plan around traffic, with a little cooperation from the public,” Ueberroth told the Chicago Tribune in a recent interview.

What happened? According to Jeanne Bonfilio, spokesman of California’s transportation department, the success was a result of years of planning and coordination before the Olympics.

That is to say, the whole transportation system was ready by the time of the Games.

There were more than 50 government agencies and private transportation planners and operators contributing to the work.

The measures adopted included encouraging more car-pooling and bus-riding. Major incident response teams were on full alert around the clock. The traffic on key roads was switched to one-way. And commercial deliveries were made at night.

Furthermore, hotlines kept the public informed and school buses were used to carry attendees, the press, and athletes to different sites.

Employers allowed their workers flexible shifts or to work at home. And a specific traffic management plan was adopted everyday.

Some also attributed the success to the great public awareness of keeping traffic flowing before and during the Games.

However, an Olympic “traffic nightmare” did happen in US history.

The transportation during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid of New York, has become infamous.

“I believe that in your country there is a saying that you cannot be in two places at one time. But here in Lake Placid, you cannot even be in one place at one time,” commented an irate European reporter at a press conference during the event.

At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, the organizing committee forced bus drivers from all over the country to drive the athletes, reporters and other attendees. Drivers who were not familiar with the area frequently got lost.

Drivers, at least one, abandoned their passengers before reaching their destination. And there were numerous traffic jams and delays largely owing to the host city’s lack of preparation and public awareness.

Smooth traffic is hard to maintain, even in a city like miracle-making Los Angeles.

Shortly after the 1984 Olympics, traffic jams and gridlock came back to haunt Los Angeles partly because the authorities and public relaxed their attention.

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