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Home > Resource Conservation > Fuel > Fair Parking

Resource Conservation: Fuel: Fair Parking

county fair pics.
The county or state fair is a fun experience for many people. This discussion, however, focuses more on how you get there than what you do there. Fair parking.



A very popular place to go in the late summer is the fair. Some people who go are kids in 4-H exhibiting their prize pig, some are vendors selling things, some people competing in dance or horseback riding. We can't forget the rides, rodeo and concerts. The fair can draw thousands each day.
     There may be all kinds of vehicles that park around the fair. Some are small cars and motor bikes, some are big 4x4 trucks, some towing horse trailers, RV's, Campers, Busses and so on. Some consume a trickle of gas and some suck it like it is going out of style.
At the local fair, busses get special privilege. They come from 8-10 locations around town and have a special lane through the fair where they drop people off at the main gate. They run every 30 minutes or so, and have special exit lanes out of the fair.
     Our concern is not as much how you get there with this article (bus, bike or 4x4). We will discuss what happens when you get there. Parking. This can be a nightmare or a simple task.
     We look at ways for the people directing you to park make it a more efficient process. 

Who Runs Fair Parking?:

Last week, this reporter got an inside look at how fair parking works. You see, at our fair, a charitable organization manages the parking at our county fair. They charge $5 to park. This charitable organization gets their labor force from other charities. Some of the main charities may be Shriners, Kiwanis,  Rotary Club and so on. We will just call them charity A.  
    They usually have 3 or 4 people at any one time running the parking. That is not enough people to run the parking. So charity A gets it's labor force from charity B. Charity B might be a youth organization that has a lot of parental support. Charity B could be a high school chapter of Future farmers of America, a high school band booster organization, a 4-H chapter and so on. We will just call them charity B.
Charity A might get 15 to 20 "volunteers" from charity B at any one time. Charity A will "pay" charity B per hour that they work. This "pay" goes to charity B and not the volunteers. The people in charity A make all the decisions where to place the flaggers, go around to give water and breaks to the workers. They also tell the workers where to direct the traffic and can resolve conflicts. This reporter was at our fair representing charity B.
     This system can work very well, but sometimes there are break downs in communication and people may go around in circles just to find a parking spot (this should not happen).

Fair Organizer's Responsibility:

Even though the county fair may not be the only event happening on this property throughout the year, they may need to treat it like it that. The money they spend on improvements will still be improvements the next year and so on. From a parking perspective, the same kinds of groups will take up the same parking spaces year after year. If they place permanent or semi permanent signage in one year, that signage will still be valid year after year. If the parking lot is mostly dirt, they may consider paving small parts of it every year until it is what they want.
For example, they may want to pave the handicap parking and paint it with the required symbols. Maybe, even post signs at those spots. They may also want to put permanent signs at the entrances to these parking spaces so that people parking can see them from a distance. These are suggestions and the fair organizers may not be the people with the authority to make these kinds of permanent changes.     
     We can not expect them to do everything. After all, they have to organize a lot of things that make the fair operate smoothly.

Fair Promoter's Responsibility:

All that we can say is, fair promoters responsibility is to promote the fair. They will do this with web sites, newspaper ads, radio spots, billboards, etc. What we are suggesting is that they add a little information to where they promote.
     Some suggestions are: Provide information on the ease and expense of a bus pass. Provide a map of the fairgrounds on a web site or newspaper. Provide maps (directions) to the fairgrounds from different entrances to the city. Provide a map of the parking lot
which clearly shows entrances, exits, and special lots (such as vendor parking, handicapped, VIP, General, Motorcycle, Rodeo Competitors).
     The more informed a person is before they go to the fair, the more efficiently they will find where they need to go. We do not expect that everyone will look for these resources, but some will and that in turn will make the parking lot a little more efficient.

Charity A's Responsibility:

These are volunteers raising money for their charity. Moneys raised for them goes to help other people. After paying the fair and charity B, there may be little money left. However, we suggest they spend a little each year to improve efficiency.
     Charity A people usually have radios to communicate with other charity A members, golf carts to fairy people and equipment around. They provide; reflective vests, orange flags (12"X12"), for the Charity B volunteers. Most all will have cell phones. They will have numbers for emergency services, fair offices, other charity A members and so on.  For our fair, they also kept a supply of bottled water on hand and came around every 20-40 minutes offering water.
     The training started at the parking lot. The vest and flags were handed out and training was done by the person being relieved. After 10 minutes you are on your own. As the shift wore on, I noticed a reasonable flow of traffic, but I was asked many question by the motorists. "where is this? where is that? can I drop off my kids?" Sometimes my answers were, "I don't know". That is the worst answer a flagger can give if there is a back up of cars. For the most part, I eventually could answer most questions, but I had to learn a lot on the job.
      Suggestions about training: Every Charity B worker that comes should get a 1 or 2 page packet upon arrival.  This packet would contain a detailed map of the parking lot, with the location of the front (and any other) gate and main office. It would contain phone numbers of charity A personnel, emergency services, fair office. As well, it could contain the phone numbers of charity B's main organizers (that are in the lot). Then, for the different jobs, there could be some special instructions. These special jobs may be, money taker, lot flagger, pivot point flagger, exit flagger. This packet should be brief but informative. The charity B person should be able to keep it for his/her shift.
Charity A personnel should recognize that charity B personnel are treated like a font of knowledge by the motorists. Each car that stops to ask a question of a charity B person may hold up other idling cars. The more questions a charity B person can answer without the motorist stopping to ask, the better. That is why it seems so important to have some portable signage. For the ground level, you could get rubber carpet samples and spray paint arrows and words on them to direct motorists. Small signs at head level can help answer more questions. The signs could be for VIP parking, handicapped parking, and so on. They could be lawn flags, or small 12"x12" wooden or metal signs on a small pole. Lastly, the flagger could have things on their vest or on a flag to direct people. This may require the flagger to carry more than one 12"x12" orange flag. 
     Examples: A 5'x5' sign where the money is taken showing a detailed map of the lot. A couple of rubber mats where VIP branches off from Exit. A lawn flag rapped around a light pole showing Handicapped.
     Another example: Give flaggers 2-3 flags with different words on them (like "EXIT" or "VIP") and arrows pointing the way. These words and arrows could be on orange flags. Flaggers can direct people without having to answer questions. Will this work for every motorist? No, but it will work for some and that is better.
     These are just a few examples of what could happen with portable signage and could save a lot of fuel and frustration of the motorists. Careful preplanning could have very big payoffs, from the standpoint of efficiency.

You do not need to have everyone see the signs, you just need more people to see them.

Charity B's Responsibility:

This is usually a mix of adults (parents) and high schoolers. All there raising money to help the club they represent. You are directing 2-5 ton objects through a maze so that they can find a place to park. The motorist sees no difference between you and the professional flaggers ( who get paid ).
      The motorist may yell and scream at you if you send them in the wrong direction. Therefore, you should come ready to work and be willing to be trained. You should come well hydrated and stay that way as you work. You should make motions that motorists can see as well as be aware of pedestrians and other obstacles to vehicles movements.
     If you have questions, ask the people in charge and if charity A's people give you a packet to study, please, study it. If you bring a cell phone, only use it to call lot supervisors with questions about the work or emergency workers if you have an emergency. 
     Beware: If you are flagging in the hot sun there is a possibility of getting Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion or even Heat stroke. These are all forms of Hyperthermia. This happens when the body dehydrates and gets too warm (body temperature past 104 deg F). The best way to avoid this is to stay hydrated and cool. If a loss in electrolytes replenish them with a sports drink or V8 juice.
Some signs of getting Heat Exhaustion are: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, dizziness.
     Do not mess around, get help. The main thing is to cool down, get in the shade, drink beverages that do not contain caffeine or alcohol, take off some clothing and do not move around until your body temperature is below 101 deg F. You may want to seek medical help as well.
     Other things to beware of: Car fires. If there is no procedure in the instructions packet, call 911, stay away from the car, do not let other people approach the car. Clear traffic so that the fire department can approach. Fender bender: If there is no procedure in the instruction packet, see if the people are O.K. . If not call 911 and get medical help. If they are OK offer to call the police to file an accident claim. If they do not want that let them work it out (some fender benders create no damage) and direct people around the accident. Other medical emergency. Call 911, see if anyone around you has appropriate medical training. Call lot supervisor, while directing traffic away from incident clearing a path for ambulance. Know where the fair ambulance is parked.

Fair Goer's Responsibility:

To have fun! Of course. However, from a parking stand point, sometimes it is a nightmare. From the time you enter the lane to pay for parking to the time you go through the exit, it can be a lot to handle. Flaggers are there to help but you have to look out for pedestrians, other cars, lane markings, signs, busses, wheel chairs, your special parking needs and so on. It is quite a hassle, and if you are in a warm car with no air conditioning, it can be even more frustrating.
     Be aware that some flaggers you will see have just started and some have been doing it for years. Some of the flagger may be professionals and some are volunteers for their club. That is not an excuse, that is just a warning that not all will know the answers to your questions. The flaggers have training but can not read your mind.
If you have special circumstances (handicapped) you may look for signs and if none exist, ask a flagger. Who knows, the flagger may be carrying a sign that answers your question. 
     You may want to take a few minutes before you go to the fair to research some of the possibilities. One thing you can do is find an ad in the paper for the fair or find a web site with information about the fair. There you might find prices for parking, public transit, schedules of the things you want to see, front gate admission and so on. You may even want to do a quick cost calculation if you take a bus versus driving yourself, paying for parking, finding a parking space and exiting the parking lot. If you drive there yourself, the parking and exiting may add 10 to 30 minutes to each side of your trip.

When To Go To The Fair:

Go when you want to go, of course. However, there may be some lull times in the parking situation that may help you determine what times are best to arrive and leave. "Making a day" of going to the fair is usually 4-6 hours. How do you pick a time to come and a time to leave? Well, you can get data from Charity A's people but you could look at a few other factors.
     Many families that have little kids that go to the fair. They will have early bed times. Most of those families will probably leave by 6:30PM to 8:00PM (depending also on how much light is left in a day). Rodeo's and concerts may have big concentrations of people who will leave when the event is over, like 9:00PM to 9:30PM.
Check the events calendar to see when these events are over. In the situation above, it looks like the sweet spot for leaving the fair is between 8-9PM. Therefore, if you are planning to stay at the fair for 6 hours you may want to arrive at 2PM.
     Lunch time in the parking lot may be a bit busy because vendors and others are sending out for lunch or leaving to get lunch.
     By 2PM most everyone is back from lunch. Therefore, 2 PM may be the optimal time to arrive.

Map Making:

If charity A members do not have a map to give to the workers, map making is not very tough. I put one together based on the information I had.
parking map

     This map was made from information on the internet. site. Looked up the general area of the fair, and printed out a Taking the electronic form of the scan, it was put into a graphics program (a simple one) and where the symbols were put in.

Savings Calculation:

Here, we will just calculate savings of fuel.
    Fuel Saving: If we assume that an inefficient lot will make 1/3 of the cars waste an average of 1 pint of fuel. That is to say, that for every 3,000 cars that come into the lot, 1,000 pints (125 gallons) will be wasted. If you make the lot as efficient as possible there will still be some wasted fuel.
For an efficient lot we will assume that for every 3,000 only 300 will waste an average of 1 pint of fuel (37.5 gallons). This is a savings of 87.5 gallons of fuel for every 3,000 cars (almost 300 gallons of fuel for every 10,000 cars). 

More Savings Calculations:

We researched local transit system. They had about half a dozen locations set aside for bus pick up to the fair. It is roughly $1.25 each way or a family of 3 or more it is $3.50 each way. Gate admission to the fair is $10 (advance) and $12 at the gate.  There are also packages that take you to and from the fair and admission for $13.50.
     For your calculation, that is basically $3.50 to ride the bus and $10 for gate admission (we aren't sure about a family rate). The busses have a special lane in to the fair and they drop you much closer to the main gate than you can get parking in the lot.
      When leaving, the busses also have a special lane and have special priority at the exit. One more factor to consider in making your calculation is the price to park your vehicle ($5 at our fair).
     If we assume that the average fair goer travels 10 miles beyond the bus pick up to go to the fair parking lot that means that the average fair goer travels an extra 20 miles round trip. If the average vehicle going to the fair gets 17 mpg, then that is a savings of roughly 1.2 gallons of gas. However, since many vehicles do a lot of "stop and go" driving in the parking lot, this may make the average extra consumption 1.3-1.5 gallons.  1.5 gallons may not sound like a lot, but for every 1,000 people that go on the bus that is 1,200 to 1,500 gallons of fuel saved.
The busses consume fuel as well, but for each person it does not add much fuel consumption. Let's just say, that for each 1,000 people that ride the bus, there is a savings of 1,000 gallons of fuel (have not verified).
    Another benefit for each person that rides the bus is one less car in the parking lot. This would reduce congestion in the parking lot for less "stop and go" traffic.
     Motorcycles: This is a special situation. A motorcycle would have good gas mileage (40-60 mpg) and not take up very much space in the parking lot. In our lot there is a special small lot for them near the admission gate. When that lot is full they are forced to take up standard sized spaces in the general parking lot. Usually, the weather is good enough (depending on your area) to drive a motorcycle to the fair. However, if there are more than 2 motorcycles in your group, you may be taking up more space in the lot and burning more fuel than by taking a car. I would think that to encourage motor cycle or motor scooter transport they could charge a little less for parking.

What We Recommend:

Signage can be cheap or expensive. Sometimes writing a few words with a Sharpie on some cardboard conveys a message. However, if you want to the signage to look more professional you have a few choices.
     For the smaller, more portable signage you could find a label maker that puts out a 2 to 1 1/2 inch tape with words, arrows and other symbols on it. At this time we have not found a label maker that we can recommend. Smaller than 1 1/2 inch for just about any signage would be too small.  Some other types of signage might be to take a few carpet samples (rubber bottom) and some stencils. Just spray paint words and arrows on them so that they can function as signs on the ground. This we would call the "do it yourself" method. It may not all look as professional as you want but it may be cheaper than at the professional sign makers.
     Another way to step up the professional look without costing an arm and a leg may be to use the services of Build a sign.com . They have all kinds of signs available, from thin aluminum to vinyl flags to plywood and more. They have standard sign templates, and you can customize most of them. If you are putting signage on a flaggers flag, we recommend you get a 4" by 6" decal and just stick it on to their flag.
The big deal here is the signs are fully customizable with several choices of materials. Here you must pick and choose between durability and cost on some of your signage. While decals may be cheap, they may only last a day on a flag. A thick reflective aluminum may last for several years, but it may cost more than $100 (depending on the size). Remember, you do not have to put all the signage up in one year to make your lot more efficient, you can do it over many years if you want.
     Waste of the signage. While some signs will be more durable than others, eventually every bit of signage will need to be thrown away. Aluminum signs may be more recyclable than some of the other choices. This would be followed by paper types, plywood and at the bottom of the list would be signage that contain Styrofoam and other plastics. While we recommended small decals to put on the flaggers flag, they would not (in general) be recyclable.  That is why we recommend that these decals be placed on key flags and not on every flag that is used.