The "Load" test - Transit, transit and transitIf an international sporting competiton tests a city's ability in any way - it's in the capacity. Toronto neighbourhoods were overturned with construction (nothing new here), the addition of HOV (3+) lanes and a large rise in tourist population over the 3 week course of the games. The city completed the Union Pearson Express - a direct high speed link from Toronto's Union Station downtown to Pearson International Airport - a must-have for any international host city, and essential for an Olympics bid.
The TTC service offered free rides to athletes, their teams and anyone who purchased a Ticket to any of the events (for the day of the event). This was a nice convenience to have, however increased complaints over parking availability and lengthy transit routes makes one wonder - how many ticketholders were in fact using the transit system?
The image which comes to mind when PanAm/ParaPanAm transit is concerned, was the police-flanked coach caravan which carted athletes to and from events. (Image courtesy of @TPSMotorSquad via Twitter) During the opening and closing ceremonies, the seemingly endless motorcade brought Toronto's street traffic to a grinding halt - potentially inconvenient but considering fair notice was given, it was understandable.
For the actual Olympics, it would be interesting to see if the TTC could have chartered streetcars to move atheletes and their supporters to and from these types of venues. The truth is, which Toronto's transit infrastructure did get some positive action - it has a long way to go before being able to support the 2024 Games.
The HOV lanes were almost immediately met with large amounts of resistance from both core and suburban residents - and understandably so - think about the existing HOV lanes in the City: how many times have you personally seen large SUV's with only single passenger occupancy? Our city isn't known for it's large ratio of carpoolers. In the end the 3+ requirement, disputed even by the mayor, may have been a little much, but it surely helped the PanAm/ParaPan Am vehicles get from A to B in short order.
Venues - Can they be repurposed?Undoubtedly, the Toronto 2015 Venues brought sporting facilities to neighbourhoods which needed them, and then some. The Aquatics centre in Scarborough was a fantastic venue, and magically, we now also have a Velodrome in Milton (Photo: The Star) (although many cities have abandoned their Velodromes due to the high maintenance costs). The soccer stadium in Hamilton came under fire for being a properly developing a new facility, but offering no consideration for parking - at least not as a forethought.
Some of these facilities may be useful in an upcoming Olympic bid, but a much grander set of structures will need to be created to handle the sheer capacity. In addition, many of these facilities will need more transportation interconnects then just roads - not to dwell on transit again, but the topics are related.
The "Buzz" factorAlmost every major newspapaer reported how Toronto residents may not have appeared very enthusiastic over hosting the Games. In particular, the pre-games ticket sales were worrisome. It seemed that residents were just not catching Panamania as the organizers had intended it. No doubt the load on the city was on residents' minds, but did that contribute to the missing "buzz" factor pre-PanAm?
Based on the attendance at the venues, there were occupancy levels in the 90% range at most events, and the most popular events such as the openeing/closing ceremonies and the soccer matches sold out rather quickly.
Attending many events at the Distillery and beyond - when the games were in full swing, the city was alive with Panamania fever (Photo: BlogTO). To an outsider though, reading the media could be interpreted as the residents not being as interested as they ended up being. The Olympics are a historic event for any city and as a result, the excitement, marketing and response needs to be enormous - from residents down to the cats and dogs, we need to publicly show that enthusiasm.
Keeping in mind that the intention of this article is to think to ourselves if we're really ready to host something like the Olympics - using the data from the PanAm/ParaPan Am games as a baseline for comparison. It's not being suggested one way or the other, in fact, in many regards, Toronto handled the Games very well indeed - the cultural programs were a real treat for visitors and residents alike, the positive interactions between athletes and residents was well-known and while we may have had some traffic, it was nothing that we couldn't handle.
The Olympics however is an exponentially larger event, with over 130 countries participating, and at times upwards of 400 events. The succeses of the Pan Am should be modeled for future use in scale, and the main focus should be on every gap or issue which was encountered - if the PanAm tested any shortcomings to reveal leaks, the Olympics would release the floodgates by comparison.
Toronto could be ready for this - maybe in 2024, maybe a bit after - if it did happen though, it would be an event to remember.