# Christmas Light Traffic

Problem: Long traffic lines.

During our first year with an animated show in 2010 we were featured on the local news a couple of times and had a reasonable number of people coming to see the lights. Then we were surprised. One night we were watching Bill O'Reilly's "The Factor" on Fox News when we saw our house featured for "Patriots vs. Pinheads". About 15 minutes later we had Christmas carolers come to the house and they told us there was a long line of cars. I looked out the door and the line went for as long as I could see. I walked down the street and the traffic stretched all the way down the street for a half mile onto the cross street. People were seriously waiting over an hour to see the lights. My heart sank. I never imagined so many people would come out to see the lights. From that point on we had heavy traffic on the weekends. Not a single neighbor complained, but the issue needed to be addressed.

Objectives:

1. Have a really cool, fun Christmas light display for my family to enjoy

2. Share the lights with family, friends and neighbors while keeping the neighborhood safe & sane for everyone.

Solution A: Crowed Management

(1) Throttle the length of the queue by changing the length of the show and providing a (2) drop sequence, (3) reduce our media footprint, (4) improve traffic flow, and (5) have a plan to shut off the lights if things get out of hand.

...OR...

After talking to some neighbors and reflecting on the conversation my wife came up with a very good idea to keep traffic down. Just don't do a show. We still do the lights, we still even do the musical sequences, but we don't do them as a show, with a schedule. So we will have the lights on statically (all on with no musical sequences) then every once in a while, without warning, not predictable, we kick off 1-4 songs, then back to static. People will not line up because most of the time it won't be doing the musical sequences. This cuts down on the car traffic, the foot traffic, everything. It makes it so I can play a variety of musical sequences (what I want), my family and friends can enjoy the lights, and the neighbors can enjoy the lights without tons of looker-traffic (what everybody wants).

So most nights we plan to employ solution B playing musical sequences 'sporadically'. Then on some nights like the neighborhood Winterfest we use Solution A, falling back to Solution B if it gets out of hand.

Solution A: Crowd Management details

Our home is ideally situated for a Christmas Light display.

• 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 facing the house, 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.
• On the right side of the road there are only 2 driveways between our house and the cross street.
• From my house to the cross street is just shy of 0.5 miles.

(1) Throttling Line by Show Length

When I got back to the house I put in a drop sequence with no lights, just instructions to be courteous to our neighbors by not blocking or turning around in driveways, keeping the noise down, etc. followed by a single song. Instead of a 17 minute show I reduced it to a 4 minute show and by doing so we were able to manage the traffic. After one or two tries after that we had it down pretty good and were able to avoid the large lines.

The following formula calculates the number of cars per hour.

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.

The full show took 17 minutes including the drop sequence.

Cars/Hour = ( 60 / 17) * 6 = 21.2 cars per hour -> didn't take much for a long line to form

Reducing the show to 4 minutes resulted in 90 cars/hour, and we were able to get ahead of the incoming traffic.

By having multiple versions of the show at the ready we can throttle the speed of the line by switching out the show.

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)

(2) The Drop Sequence

Purpose of the drop sequence is to compel the current cars to leave and for the next set of cars to advance, plus to provide instructions to be courteous to our neighbors. People naturally leave once the lights go off and the instructions repeat. When it is busy we play the drop sequence at the end of each show cycle clearing the way for another set of cars.

The instructions include:

• Please be courteous to our neighbors and give them the right of way.
• Please avoid parking directly in front of the house allowing more people to see the lights
• Please do not block or turnaround in neighbors' driveways.
• Please avoid turning around in cul-de-sacs.
• Please do not block or impede traffic at intersections or in front of house.
• Please keep to the right allowing traffic to get by.
• Please no shouting, honking, or loud music.

(3) Reduce our media footprint

• Actively work to keep our address out of the media to avoid excess traffic.
• Removed our street address from our website
• Removed our Christmas Display from various Christmas Display listings. Tacky Light Tour, Muse Maps, etc.
• Contacted TV stations, newspapers, blogs that ran stories of our lights in 2010 and politely asked them to remove our address from their stories. Found by doing a search with Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Lycos. Probably won't be able to get every single mention off the web, but will make it very hard to find.
• Setup a Google alert to send email if it detects our address published on the web.

(4) Improve Traffic Flow

In 2010 we had cars that would drive past the house, get the radio frequency, then turnaround drive to then end of the line, turnaround again, wait in line, see the lights, then turnaround again and then leave the neighborhood. That is 4 trips up and down the road.

By improving our traffic flow we can cut the traffic down by 75%, and eliminates turnarounds.

First, we put a sign out a little ways down the street with the radio frequency, and post the radio frequency on the website. This way people know the frequency without having to drive past the house.

Also, limit turnaround traffic impacting the cul-de-sac directly across the way. We will include in the information voiceovers directing people to not turn around in the cul-de-sac. Also we plan to put out signs across the street asking people to stay in their cars.

Next, in the drop sequence we provide instructions on how to exit the neighborhood by looping around instead of turning around.

This improves traffic flow by having only 1 pass through the neighborhood instead of 4, and avoids 2 turnarounds per car. Not everyone will follow the directions, but enough will to significantly reduce traffic.

(5) Plan if things get out of hand

• The plan for dealing with an out of hand situation is to shut off the lights until all the cars leave, then turn the lights back on.
• Contact the Police department before we light the lights to let them know where we are, what we are doing, and to provide them a copy of our traffic management plan. This way if they are contacted with a problem they already have my contact information and are familiar with the neighborhood, etc. Also increases police presence in the neighborhood, which is always appreciated.