Monday, September 10, 2007

Game one in the book

Sgt. Shannon Karl, has a tough assignment during her rookie year as a newly-promoted sergeant: she's responsible for supervising the traffic detail for Nebraska home football games. It's a big job, requiring a huge amount of planning, scheduling, and problem-solving, capped by an exhausting shift. This year, we asked her to put together a plan that would further reduce the cost, but to do so without any significant disruption in traffic. That's a tall order.

I jokingly told Sgt. Karl that I had a whole playbook full of sports cliches to pull out if things didn't go so well. I was optimistic that we could make some cuts without backing traffic up to the Kansas border, but frankly, I thought the reduction in the number of officers directing traffic could cause post-game delays to be greater than normal. So, a couple weeks ago I asked the public to linger longer in Lincoln.

The season is obviously still young, but the home opener, Nebraska v. Nevada, came off splendidly. The dire predictions of doom failed to materialize. Although it was hotter than blazes for the officers on the asphalt, the traffic direction went quite well. We had everyone cleared out and traffic back to it's normal flow within one hour after the end of the game. That's our informal target. If you've been to other Big 12 stadiums, you know that there are very few places where 84,000 people can leave the stadium, and be back home with their shoes off within 60 minutes--even quicker if you've parked strategically.

The USC game this weekend will be an entirely new detail, because the changing kickoff times require reworking the schedule virtually ever game. The same people who worked Nevada will not all be available for USC--many will be on duty for their regular shift, and you can't bring them in early or hold them over late, because the game is pretty much in the middle of the police department's second shift.

Here's an interesting summary of the cost of police overtime for traffic direction over the course of the past few seasons:

Cost of police overtime per football game, 2002 $11,592
Cost of police overtime per football game, 2003 $10,816
Cost of police overtime per football game, 2004 $10,452
Cost of police overtime per football game, 2005 $10,600
Cost of police overtime per football game, 2006 $7,085
Cost of police overtime Nebraska v. Nevada, 2007 $5,406

Good work, Shannon, and a good job by everyone involved in the detail. Achieving the same results at less than half the cost merits a standing ovation!


Anonymous said...

I didn't go downtown Saturday, but I heard the traffic moved quite well. Good job on the part of LPD and the people driving the cars.

Have there been any improvements to traffic lights and/or other control devices in the last few years to better automate the control of traffic downtown? If so, has this taken some OT pressure off the PD as far as game day traffic control?

Tom Casady said...

Yes, engineering is part of the equation. The big change on that front has been the opening of Salt Valley Roadway and Antelope Valley Parkway. This has helped considerably in getting traffic out to the north, and whereas we used to need several officers to run 14th street one way northbound after the games, it's now unnecessary. I think the countdown pedestrian signals have helped a little bit. The interactive traffic cams may have helped, as well--since the Public Works department now has a live view of some key intersections and can make on-the-fly adjustments from the traffic center.

We're looking forward to next year, when the Harris Overpass is closed for the entire season :-0

Anonymous said...

Would you make sure that before they close the Harris Overpass next year and spend millions of dollars to rebuild it, that they have their study done as to where the proposed arena is going to be placed. That way they don't come back in two years later and have to do it all over again.