Transportation at the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa

June 23, 2010

Written by James Wong.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Sutherland, City of Cape Town

The FIFA World Cup is the world’s single largest sporting event, spanning a full month with three games every day, and it only occurs once every four years. By the end of the final match, some 2.9 million tickets will have been sold to locals and visitors alike. So how did nine South African cities with ten stadiums get ready for the World Cup and impress the global community as it began arriving this month?

This is the first in a multi-part series focusing on the preparations of one city, the City of Cape Town, for the World Cup. As one of KAI’s staff on exchange in South Africa, I’ve had a great opportunity to watch the country prepare for this global event over the last year. In my wanderings around the city and work with ITS Engineers, I’ve seen a number of projects, small and large, reach completion in time for kick-off. From managing traffic around Greenpoint stadium to city-wide improvements in pedestrian facilities to a new world-class transport management center, Cape Town has spent heavily and worked diligently to get ready for the 2010 World Cup – and it’s paying off!

Cape Town's TMC

Today we focus on the Mother City's new Transportation Management Center (TMC). Opened just months before kickoff, the TMC has been built to be one of the most advanced transportation operation centers in the world. It is a joint venture between city, provincial and national governments, assisted by ITS Engineers as the prime consultant. In one building, you will find the new freeway management system that keeps an eye on the city’s freeways and informs drivers of any major incidents, emergency personnel responsible for coordinating the response during incidents and stations to control traffic signals throughout the city.

The city has also recently opened the first phase of its Integrated Rapid Transit system which is the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network being deployed through the region. Once completed, its operations will also be housed here. Managing traffic signals, bus rapid transit, freeways and local-street surveillance means the TMC is a fully integrated center for managing the city's transportation network.

Handling a World Cup Match in the City

Even the day before a match in Cape Town, the TMC is busy preparing the city for the coming stress on its transport infrastructure. From one room, a fully trained staff of operators monitor the freeway system and control all 48 variable message signs (VMSs) on any of the city's three major freeways. A day before a match they advise drivers of the event and encourage them to use public transport and arrive early. In a morning peak hour, these signs will be read by thousands of commuters.

The VMS signs have already been used in matches to advise people when to avoid the city, if the local streets have become gridlocked, and if the Fan Fest (the second largest attraction during the world cup) is full. These all contribute to smooth operations during match events. One of the most useful functions has been advising drivers where to turn off to park-and-ride lots that have been extensively used by many attending the games.

Within the city, signal operators run special event signal plans that will help get people from the freeways to parking garages and park-and-ride lots. They keep an eye on excessive queues and can upload new signal timing as needed within minutes from the TMC. By sitting next to the freeway operators, the signal operators can quickly discuss any important news that should be broadcasted to incoming freeway traffic via VMS.

The TMC in Cape Town is one of many ways that the city has prepared for the World Cup; but it won’t close on July 12th when the world goes home. The TMC is a permanent operations center that will grow with the city’s transportation needs in the future. It also means that Cape Town is ready to host the next big global event. Cape Town 2020 Summer Olympics??

Look out for the next post in the series: Pedestrian Accommodation Throughout the Mother City

This article was written by James Wong, a Transportation Analyst with Kittelson & Associtaes, Inc. He has been working on a staff exchange with ITS Engineers in South Africa for the past year.

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