Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
Oct 13

Transport Management For Events In 6 Steps

Transport Management is one of the areas of events & event managment that's quite specialised. Dealing with large crowds of people in an area that, by design, will have large scale vehicle movement requires proper planning and management.

You'll note I didn't title this post 'Transport Management For Events In 6 EASY Steps'. That would have been misleading.

Transport management has a lot to it and it should be done by experienced people who understand crowd movements and the dynamics of those mixed with vehicle movements.

For the purposes of this post I'm going to look at events on a scale that would see buses being the main element of your transport offering. Obviously for smaller events you can adapt the steps.

At the largest concerts and festivals in Ireland the transport hubs tend to be managed by specialists. Before Cuckoo Events ever existed we were involved in transport management for the likes of Oxegen, Electric Picnic, Slane, Phoenix Park Concerts and more. We worked with the company who were providing and managing the shuttle bus services, Marathon Travel. We also worked with Marathon to provide the bus service for both sets of Portuegese fans attending the Europa League Final held in the Aviva Stadium from the airport to the game and back.

Marathon have been providing transport solutions for events for many years. We began supplying staff for them back in around 2007 I think. We had a team of trained and experienced staff operating out of Limerick and we were able to utilise them to staff the transport hubs for Marathon.

And on that note we shall seamlessly transition into the 6 steps, with the first one being. . .

1. The Bus Company

There are a lot of companies who have buses. In this country a lot of the bus operators get on well and use one another for different jobs when they need extra buses.  A lot of the companies will be inclined to promise you the sun, the moon and the stars to get a large bus contract for an event. Quite often it can be guaranteed money for them, with the event organisers simply paying for the bus service to be provided. In situations like that, especially, companies will be falling over themselves to get the gig.

As an event organiser, you need to box clever here. You need to be looking for more than a large fleet of buses and the cheapest price you can. You need to look for a company with a proven track record in doing events like yours. Talk to previous clients each of the companies. Look at the scale of their previous events etc.

The big concert promoters in this country are not in the business of throwing money away, believe me. If you see a company who does work for the big names then it's not because those names can afford to pay and have massive budgets. That's not how it works. It actually means that the company do their job well enough for the big names to put their faith in them. That's a good sign.

The likes of Marathon provide staff as part of their offering and that's the 2nd step here. . .

2. The Staff

I've mentioned in many blog posts both here and over on that the events business is a people business. Some people are good event people and some people are also good transport management people.

The likes of Marathon bring a team with them. That won't always be the case.

If it's your event then you need to be happy that you have people who know transport management doing your transport management.

It's too critical and potentially too dangerous to NOT have specialists looking after it.

Whether it's buses or cars or both (or buses, cars, trains and pedestrians like this Flavours of Fingal gig we did recently), once you marry that with queuing management and the human factor you've got all the ingredients for disaster unless it's done properly.

There are plenty of Event Management companies around who would not have this specific expertise either so be careful not to fall into that trap either. Cuckoo are not the only ones, to be fair.

3. The Plan

Once you have your buses sand your staff sorted then you need to join the two in Holy Matrimony. While I say that somewhat facetiously, it does illustrate how strong the relationship between the two needs to be. That's why you should always, if possible, use a bus provider and a team of staff who work together regularly or, at least, have done so successfully at some stage.

The plan will likely consist of things like:

  • How many buses will be used
  • What schedule they will operate to
  • What the contingency will be
  • What routes they will take
  • What staff are required
  • What shifts the staff will work
  • What resources (barriers, lighting towers, megaphones, high viz, structures, tracking, cones, radios, clickers. . . ) are needed
  • Who needs to be involved / informed
  • What the management structure will be
  • What queuing system will be used
  • What effect you'll have on normal traffic
  • What you need to do to minimise that effect

It's not an exhaustive list, obviously but it's the guts of it.

The plan needs to be formulated, circulated and implemented.

4. The Communication

This will likely form part of the plan (above) but it's an important element and one I always consider as a task in itself.

You can really negate the effectiveness of even the most cleverly designed transport management system (or any system, for that matter) if you fail to properly communicate it to the public. Confusion or lack of clarity among your audience will very quickly render your well-designed system useless.

You need to direct and lead your audience in the most effective ways possible.

Generally speaking this involves good signage and good staff communicating with them.

5. The Management

You know that oft-quoted line about how 'no plan survives first contact with the enemy' (which may or may not have been said by Helmuth von Motkle originally)? Well, keep that in mind.

You plan will always need to be tweaked to some degree. I genuinely don't think I've ever done one that hasn't been amended on the ground and on the fly as circumstances dictated at the actual event. That's par for the course.

What's important is that you've the staff who are experienced enough to take control and make the changes as they need to be made.

Blindly sticking to a plan is never the way to operate.

6. The Review

One of the worst things you can do is decide you don't need to review things after the event on the basis that things went well. That doesn't mean that things can't be improved.

You need to get feedback from as many people with a potentially valuable perspective as you can. Some of those may include:

  • The transport management staff
  • Other staff operating in the same area
  • Your audience
  • Bus drivers
  • The overall event management staff
  • Gardaí

Don't limit yourself to the people above. Consider any other people who may have valuable feedback.

Your goal when running events should always be to improve all elements constantly and the transport management element needs to be treated the same way.

The review can be an extremely powerful tool for an event organiser.

Use the DIM approach

Before you decide I've lost it, stick with me here.

DIM stands for Design, Information and Management.

I first came across the DIM approach during my Spectator Safety Management course. This is an NVQ Level 4 course run by the Emergency Planning College in the UK. It's designed specifically for Event Safety Managers. I've completed the course, having produced a portfolio, having done on-the-job assessments and having submitted a lot of written evidence. I'm just waiting on the results now.

Anyway, I digress.

DIM, as an approach, is a great one to remember. It's not world-changing but it will help focus your mind on what you need to be considering when planning your event.

There's a lot to remember with events so anything that makes it easier is a good thing.

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