Localized, transient polar cap flows impinging on the poleward boundary of the nightside auroral oval have been suggested to precede poleward boundary intensifications (PBIs), which are often followed by auroral streamers, some of which propagate equatorward and appear to lead to substorm auroral onset. While echo coverage often limits radar flow measurements, imaging of polar cap patches and arcs has the potential to monitor localized polar cap flows by tracing emission structures, previously associated with enhanced flows, over long distances. We use such imaging to examine if polar cap patches and arcs moving over large distances can be seen as possible precursors to pre-substorm-onset PBIs. We find evidence that such features, which are longitudinally narrow, propagate from the dayside polar region toward the nightside polar cap boundary prior to pre-onset PBIs. This sequence indicates that transient activity in the dayside polar region may initiate polar cap patches and arcs that propagate across the polar cap and are followed by pre-onset PBIs. Furthermore, we find evidence that expansion-phase active aurora expanded poleward soon after additional polar cap patches and arcs reached close to the nightside polar cap boundary. The expansion phase auroral activity significantly weakened when polar cap patches/arcs disappeared. Our findings suggest that plasma transport originating from the dayside and reaching the nightside open-closed boundary may trigger in plasma sheet flow bursts and play a crucial role in pre- and post-onset auroral activity. Polar cap imaging offers the possibility for monitoring such localized, transient plasma transport over large distances.