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Managing Heavy Traffic

Best practices in managing traffic to and from a Christmas display
John Storms
John Storms
Posts: 4
8/14/2011 2:33:56 PM
Problem: On a few night’s during our first year traffic was out of control. It stretched for ½ mile, which put it all the way out on the busy street. Some people waited over an hour to see the lights. It probably also annoyed a few neighbors, which is very bad.

After being on the local news our home started getting some traffic, but nothing serious and we were happy. Then about 15 minutes after our house was featured on Bill O’Reilly’s the Factor in the Patriots & Pinheads segment we had a big traffic problem. Then we kept seeing our house on TV and the traffic became worse.

Fox: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXcRgs8NPdg
GMA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXcRgs8NPdg
Plus we were aired on CNN a few times, and on a few local news channels.

I thought being on TV would be really cool and fun, but it caused a traffic nightmare, and when you realize it could cause your HOA to shut you down really isn't fun at all.

Traffic:

It was our first year doing an animated show to music. Some carolers came by and told use the line was all the way to the main road (half mile). I knew I had to fix this problem before the neighbors came with torches and pitch forks to tar and feather me.


This image taken almost a half mile from my house.

By luck my house is physically located in a good spot for Christmas light displays.



[list]
* Wide lot for a single story house. More cars can park in front at once. 6-8 cars can have a good view at a time to see the show.
* No across the street neighbors, just a 6’ stone, sound wall.
* Wide street. Cars can be parked on both sides with room for cars to get through in the middle.
From my house to the cross street is just shy of 0.5 miles.
* Sidewalks on both sides so people can park in the cul-du-sacs and walk over to see the lights.
* On the right side of the road there are only 2 driveways.
[/list]



Solution: The real solution would have been to avoid the news, but we were past that point. We were able to “throttle” the show to get more cars through and keep the line down.

First you can figure out how many cars an hour your show can handle with the following formula.

Cars/Hour = ( 60 / Length of show) * Cars viewing at a time


We averaged 6 cars viewing the show at a time. As long as someone didn’t park right in front of the house. If someone parks right in front then only about 4 cars can see and seriously slows the line down. It also makes the line angry, people honk horns, get out of cars and in general creates the kind of problems that neighbors hate. So it was important that people not park in front of the house. The solution that worked the best was to put luminaries along the curb on the street.

Next, I created a drop sequence where I turn off the lights and give the little speech about “please don’t turn around in driveways, block intersections, honk horns, play radios too loud, etc.” During the drop sequence cars will sense the show is over and leave and the line advances. The drop sequence is a musical sequence with just me talking, and I just leave the channels blank, no timings, just the sound.

Then, I put together a few versions of the show of different lengths.

The full show took 17 minutes including the drop sequence.

Cars/Hour = ( 60 / 17) * 6 = 21.2


So with my full show I could at max process 21 cars every hour. On busy nights it didn’t take long for the line to back up. By coming up with multiple versions of the show, with different lengths I could speed up or slow down the line.

17 minute show = 21 cars/hour (SLOWEST: Full show)
10 minute show = 36 cars/hour
4 minute show = 90 cars/hour (1 decent song and drop sequence)
3 minute show = 120 cars/hour (FASTEST: 1 short song and drop sequence)


So for the busy nights I set up the following shows to have no start or end sequences, so I can start and end them without people noticing.

I would start the evening with a start-up show vs. a start-up sequence. Then I would follow that with the full version of the show. As the evening goes on I go outside to see how the line is looking. When the line starts growing I speed up the show, and when the line is dying off I speed it up.

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A Tacky Light Tour is a trip made with family and friends from one home or business insanely decorated for Christmas to another usually made in a passenger car, but sometimes taken in limousines, vans and tour buses. Traditionally, displays with more than 10,000 Christmas lights qualify to be included among the very best Christmas displays found on the Tacky Light Tour.

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