When Executive Director of Community Services and Parking Erick Gaither talks about the Olympics, he speaks in terms of omens. In his address to the Olympic Transportation Subcommittee on Dec. 14, Gaither outlined what Emory employees can look forward to during the weeks of the Olympics and discussed the various options the University is exploring to assist employees.
Gaither's "omens" included these facts about the impact of the Olympics on Atlanta: The 1996 Summer Olympics, which will run from July 19-Aug. 4, will be equivalent to three Super Bowls per day downtown. There will be 750,000 hotel room nights leased, 10,000 athletes from around the world, 15,000 credentialed media and 40,000 volunteers. Two million spectators are expected to take advantage of the 12 million available tickets, which means Atlanta will host more spectators than the Los Angeles and Barcelona games combined. With many events concentrated in a small area of downtown, this is to be the most compact Olympic Games in history.
But the effect will not just be on downtown. A ripple effect, said Gaither, will affect all of the city as a result of parking lots set up outside I-285 by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG).
The Transportation Subcommittee, chaired by Gaither, has been formed by the Emory Olympic Coordinating Committee, chaired by Vice President for Institutional Advancement Bill Fox, to help with Olympic planning. This subcommittee will make recommendations to the Coordinating Committee, which will then set policy regarding operations of the University during the Olympics. The goal for the University, as it is for many businesses in the Atlanta area, is to manage to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible, despite the many distractions and stumbling blocks that may occur.
Gaither's subcommittee is comprised of one member from each division of the University and the hospitals. The group is exploring a range of potential problems, from how to schedule deliveries, how to advise departments on issues such as flexible scheduling and telecommuting, and how to coordinate the closing of departments that may choose to shut down during part or all of the Olympic Games.
MARTA now carries approximately 475,000 riders per day. ACOG estimates that ridership will jump to 800,000 per day during the Olympics. To accommodate that, MARTA will add an additional 1,000 buses to the fleet and will have all 200 rail cars in operation with extra standing room made possible by the removal of several seats per car. Trains will run every three to six minutes (currently they run every eight to 10 minutes).
Those who usually commute by way of MARTA will find that the normal morning and afternoon peak commuting times will coincide with the peak times for spectator ridership. ACOG is advising local riders to avoid using the system from 7:30-9:30 a.m. and from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The free park-and-ride lots at the MARTA stations are expected to fill early.
Commuters also are being advised to avoid major throughways between 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Like many businesses in the Atlanta area, Emory is faced with a situation of having many employees who live across town, or out in the suburbs, and getting those employees to campus is going to be a challenge. Alice Miller, associate vice president for Human Resources, said, "There are a number of unknowns, circumstances that are outside our control. We will have to be creative and flexible."
Emory administrators are beginning to look at ACOG's recommendations for reducing commuting during normal hours and to explore which of those will work best for the University. ACOG is recommending a range of options from vacation, flex time, staggered work hours, a compressed work week, telecommuting, carpooling and van pooling. In cooperation with the Atlanta Regional Commission, Human Resources recently sent out an Employee Commuter Transportation Survey that questions employees about various commuting options. This survey has a dual purpose, according to Miller; it will help administrators better understand what will encourage people to change their commuting patterns, and begin to look at the kind of options ACOG is recommending during the Olympics.
"The Olympics may force us into exploring options such as telecommuting and flex time for the duration of the games," said Miller. "What may happen is that we find out it can work, not just for the Olympics, but for the future as well." It is an opportunity, she said, "to think outside the box."
Although it's clear that the nature of many employees' jobs at Emory makes it impossible for them to telecommute, it could be an option for some during the Olympics. Expanded use of flexible scheduling and compressed work weeks are two other options suggested by ACOG that may be possibilities at Emory. Flexible scheduling simply means that an employee's eight hours are scheduled at a time mutually agreed upon by the employee and their supervisor; for example, one employee may choose to work 6 a.m.-3 p.m., while another may work 11 a.m.-8 p.m. A compressed work week allows employees to work yet another alternative schedule, one that allows them to work four 10-hour days or three even longer days.
On Jan. 22, Human Resources will host a management symposium, with a presentation by an expert on telecommuting. Following that symposium, Human Resources, the Emory Olympic Coordinating Committee and the Transportation Subcommittee will develop information and guidelines for how the University will operate in the midst of the very busy summer of 1996.
Questions or suggestions regarding University operations during the Olympics may be addressed to Greg Jones, associate director, Human Resources, at 727-5924 or email@example.com.