The 2010 Olympic downtown transportation experience: lessons for Vancouver and future host cities of mega-events

Author/s: Steve Chou

Creation date: 2010

Contact info:

Senior supervisor: Anthony Perl

Keywords: transportation demand management, Olympic transportation, Vancouver, lessons learned, sustainable transportation, episodic events

Geographic focus: Vancouver, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: What lessons can Vancouver learn from the 2010 Olympic transportation experience?


The transportation challenges presented by mega-events like the Olympic Games share similarities with the transportation challenges cities face on an ongoing basis. While cities invest significant time and resources into developing strategies to address those ongoing challenges, there has been less attention to what cities can learn from mega-event transportation experiences. Thus when Vancouver hosted the 2010 Olympics, it had a valuable opportunity to learn lessons that could inform its future transportation decisions. This research deals with some of those lessons.


Vancouver implemented an Olympic Transportation Plan that met its goal of reducing vehicle traffic by a minimum of 30%. At the same time, there was a surge in transit use, high volumes of pedestrians and bicycles, and generally positive comments about the local transportation system. Based on key informant interviews, media reports, structured observations and other sources, the author generated ten transportation lessons that Vancouver and other cities could learn from this successful 17-day Olympic transportation experience. These include the importance of providing benchmarks for mode use targets and for the vision of what is achievable for the region's transportation system. Other lessons for Vancouver include highlighting the potential for transit to attract a much wider ridership and defining what “normal” travel conditions could be like in future. This research also illustrates how important it is for cities hosting mega-events to collect data and monitor transportation use during the event so that post-event analysis and learning is possible.