Salt Lake City, UT August 28 (AP by Hannah Wolfson)--The new transportation plan for the 2002 Winter Olympics reads a bit like one of those tricky algebra questions.
If you have 65,000 visitors traveling in 1,400 buses and an unspecified number of cars to nine out-of-town venues over two highways, how long will it take to get from Salt Lake City to the bobsledding course?
The answer is still unknown, though the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and Utah transportation officials released their draft transit plan Friday.
But officials do know they expect to rely heavily on buses and a string of temporary parking lots to handle the thousands who refuse to leave their cars at home.
The SLOC plans to spend more than $58 million to build seven lots, plus another $24 million for infrastructure like shuttle drop-offs and pedestrian paths. Nearly $170 million more will be spent upgrading roads, intersections, signs and overpasses near the venues and a pedestrian bridge near the Olympic Village.
But officials are still hoping to persuade many spectators to stay off the roads.
``If you get on the bus, you can leave the driving to the professionals,'' said Tom Warne, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation.
And a lot of professionals will be needed behind the wheels of some 1,400 buses, compared to 900 used at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Most will shuttle spectators from parking lots to the venues. Others will run special routes in Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden, and other venue cities, or maintain regular service.
Cities from across the country have already volunteered 1,000 buses for the games. Drivers may be a tougher problem. Commercial operators will be asked to provide _ and may be allowed to charge a fee for _ additional tour buses to move people from Salt Lake to distant venues, a hilly trip difficult for public buses.
In fact, if SLOC officials have their way, the games may look a lot like the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, where 609 local buses and 657 long-range shuttles carried spectators between nine sites.
Like Calgary, light rail will also come into play. Salt Lake City's new north-south trolley line is expected to open this December with 23 cars, and officials are still hoping a controversial east-west line will get approval, adding 11 more cars. Warne said officials also would like to borrow enough cars to bring the total up to 96 during the games.
Another big question is cost. Calgary spectators spent $15 to ride the long-distance buses. But John English of the Utah Transit Authority said they might also find a model in Atlanta's Olympics, where ticketholders got free transportation between the venues.
Though shuttles are likely to be free, SLOC president Mitt Romney said he's tempted to institute a fee at the park-and-ride lots to encourage carpooling.
``We might charge people a couple of bucks to get them to say, `Fill that car to the brim,''' Romney said.
Romney and Warne also said they hope local commuters will make an effort to carpool or telecommute in order to keep the roads clear. And the SLOC is urging businesses to allow employees to work more flexible hours during the 17 days of the games.
In addition, the state transportation department is thinking about bringing in extra snowplows to make sure heavy mountain snows don't tie up traffic.
``We don't ever want to be in a position where some world-class athlete didn't make it to the venue,'' Warne said.
For all the concern, however, Warne joked that in some ways Olympic transportation may be easier to plan for than Brigham Young University football games _ where the same number of visitors cram streets around the Provo stadium.
The plan is still in a very general draft form, and each venue city is expected to hold public debates before details are solidified.
``It's the beginning for us,'' Romnney said. ``We put something on the table and say, `What do you think about this?' and I'll be shocked if it looks the same.'' SportsBusiness
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