The 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles may be nearly nine years away, but the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) is already immersed in planning for the event’s impact on the region’s mass transportation network.
When the Olympic torch is lit in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on July 21, 2028, Los Angeles will become the first U.S. city to host the Summer Olympics three times; the city previously hosted the games in 1932 and 1984.
In 1984, Jim de la Loza had recently completed graduate school and was involved in the city’s early planning to host not only the Olympic games, but also a major arts festival to coincide with the games. Combined, the two events meant hundreds of thousands of additional people would be traveling throughout the LA region — and at that time, the area’s transportation options included bus, but no rail.
Concern over how local streets and regional highways — infamously congested even back then — could absorb an influx of over 600,000 athletes and spectators prompted city planners to take a creative approach to managing traffic and transportation based on demand.
“They worked with the Rapid Transit District — the predecessor to Metro — to identify a fleet of buses that were focused on moving the athletes and people that were coming to town,” says de la Loza, who’s now LA Metro’s chief planning officer. “They also looked at the streets and highways [that would be used during the Olympic events] and implemented a series of programs to encourage local businesses to spread out their employees’ work hours or commute times in the morning.”
Additionally, city officials encouraged businesses to allow employees to leave town on vacation during the Olympics, and they implemented a vehicle miles traveled tax (VMT) to further discourage drivers from unnecessarily using the roadways. The measures worked to reduce the flow of local residents’ traffic so that Olympic athletes and spectators could get to where they needed to be much faster.
“If you were there, you would have seen Los Angeles move like it hadn’t in a very long time,” recalls de la Loza, who’s involved in LA Metro’s planning for the 2028 Olympics.
Of course, the city and county of LA have grown and changed quite a bit since 1984. The county’s population has ballooned by about 2.5 million to over 10 million people, further exacerbating those notorious traffic jams. In 2018, Los Angeles was the nation’s fifth and the world’s 47th most congested city, according to INRIX Inc.’s annual global survey results. (According to LA Metro, Angelenos spend an average of 81 hours a year stuck in traffic.)
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