Parking attendants at large venues

Inspired by this thread on the idiocy of boarding passengers on an airplane front-to-back, I thought I’d ask a semi-related question on how parking lots are filled and emptied at large venues.

Drive to just about any large venue, and you will have quite a few attendants directing you to a specific spot where you can park your car. The fact that most of us have managed to park in large mall parking lots without the aid of teenagers in silly vests waiving glow-sticks doesn’t seem to be relevant here, but I guess if I’m paying $30 to park my car for a few hours, I’ll take it as a perk.

But what I don’t understand is why there are no parking attendants on duty after the event ends, the time when you really need help to manage traffic out of the lot. The time when people arrive at the event is usually spread our over a few hours, so there aren’t a large number of vehicles maneuvering the lot at any one time before the event. Afterward, just about everyone leaves at the same time–sometimes with a few drinks under the belt–and I’ve spent a good hour sometimes surrounded by a cluster of haphazardly-pointed cars.

The problem is so obvious that I have to believe there is a logical or at least legal/economic reason why large venues don’t do this. I guess it could be a simple as they don’t care once they got my money, but on the off chance someone has a better answer, I’m all ears.

It’s worth it for the parking company to make sure every spot is filled (and paid for) at the beginning of the event. If you have 20,000 spots and left people to park on their own, you’d have 10,000 single spots peppering a hundred rows that drivers need to seek out on their own. You’d also have a bunch of jackasses taking up 2 spots or parking incorrectly.

If everyone parks all neat and orderly like, every spot gets filled. Everyone makes it to the event on time (well, as on time as their arrival permits). No one bitches about what a pain it was to find a spot. No one turns around and leaves (thus not paying) because they don’t have a spot.

When you leave, yeah, it’s a matter of “we got your money, good day, sir.”

Also…imagine how much money they save not having to pay parking attendants to sit around and pick their butts during the show and than hang out in the lot for 3 hours while all of the yahoos stumble out of the venue and attempt to drive home. The parking/venue company isn’t going to foot that bill, you are. Then you’re not going to pay to park anymore and the company loses money.



Cars come in and you have control (plus give your buddies good spots or people who tip good spots). When cars leave, it is so random that there is no way to move all the cars any more efficiently. People leave randomly.

Supply and demand: No matter what lot X does, the demand for parking remains the same, therefore lot X does not need to pay people for the length of the event in a lame attempt to move cars out when there are WAY more cars than any attendant, road or exit lane can handle.

I used to run a lot near the sports complex in Philadelphia.

Besides, who is going to stop because some guy in a silly vest waving a glow-stick wants him/her to?

At most events I’ve been to, there have been attendants and/or policeman directing traffic on the way out.

Entering, it is much easier than at a mall, since everyone comes at the same time and nobody leaves until the end, so there are no gaps to fill. I find parking this way much less stressful than parking at a mall during a busy time.

For leaving, where would you put the attendants? Every row is a merge point. Would you try to get them to stop traffic to let people merge from rows? Fundamentally, parking consists of a linear line of cars being mapped into what is a linear row of spaces, thanks to direction, while leaving is a random set of cars being mapped into narrow lanes. I’d think it would be very dangerous for attendants to try to do anything about this in the dark, and probably it wouldn’t help.

Does anyone have an algorithm to do this mapping? Except to force everyone to stay in their cars and leave a section at a time (the way we got lunch in high school) I can’t think of one.

I actually did this job back when I was in my teens. Bit of trivia–the job title of the guys who do this, at least when I did it, was “ramper.” I was a ramper.

If I recall correctly, the idea was to fill the lot in an orderly manner–that is, so every space was full, and nobody took up two spaces with one car. Cars were directed from one guy to the next to the next and so on. The last guy would actually direct the driver into the space itself. We worked from the closest spots to the venue back to the farthest, so nobody could complain that we weren’t getting them as close as possible. When the lot was full, it was truly full: every space was occupied and by doing so, we had maximized our revenue.

We stayed on shift while the event was occurring. Not everybody who parked in our lot went to the event, so a few cars came and went during that time. Of course, there were latecomers to the event too. Anyway, when one car left, we had to find the space it came from, so if someone showed up (and someone always did), we could direct it into the vacant space. This worked much more efficiently than letting the car look for the space on its own. We kept running counts of vacant spaces, so we didn’t let in more cars than we ever had room for.

Then, when the event was over…

Bingo! Folks are more than willing to let you find them a parking spot in a busy lot, but when they want to leave (especially if, as the OP admits, they may have had a few drinks), they’re not going to listen to you. “Some kid is gonna tell me I have to wait while he lets that other row go? No way!” And he’s off in a different direction, even thumping over curbs sometimes in his quest for an exit. Folks got impatient and frustrated with anything that stood in their way: a barrier, a fence, a kid in an orange vest. So, for our own safety, we cleared out.

The best (and maybe only) way to speed up exits is to remove constraints. Usually problems arew caused by something like a left turn onto a major road. Getting a cop to direct traffic can help immensely here.

Merging may seem slow but it’s not inefficient in terms of the total # of cars.

About eight years ago my then lass, SiL & BiL went to the RHS Garden Show at Hampton Court.

Parking was Ok, in a ruddy great field with attendants waving around.
Leaving was a different matter, all the cars went up the lanes to one exit, it was a total snarl up. I walked up to find out what the problem was, it was police and attendants misdirecting the traffic.

I then started sniffing round at the fences looking for weak spots or potential exits. At the farthest end from the entrance/exit I spotted a guy doing the same thing, I also found a gate guarded by a small female attendant in a yellow plastic jacket. She seemed to be Italian, with a poor command of English - so I glared her out, opened the gate while the other guy rushed back to his car. I then started back to our car, directing drivers to the exit. Cars piled out of that gate - within minutes we were off.

The interesting thing is that if it had been a racetrack, Henley or a rugby match, someone would have driven a 4x4 through the wooden fence or a bunch of guys would have kicked down a section. Of several thousand cars, only two people had the sense to find another way out - the rest just sat in queues like cattle.

It says something about people who go to flower shows.

Worked for CCS Parking, which did most Rutgers events and the US Open (golf) in addtition to quite a few music festivals. The contract negotiated stipulated a certain amount of people to do the get-in, then roughly 10% for the get-out. The idea is that people are like sheep, and they can follow each other out.

That being said, we’d have people set up as 1 or 2 to a lot on the way out, funneling traffic towards the obvious exit. After an hour there’s hardly anybody, so we pack up and leave.
The wage for the parking guys was $8/hr, 10/hr for managers. Rutgers games were charging $10 or so a car. That’s in cash. How much do you think the company made. It’s disgusting. Can’t believe we attendants were actually honest. I should’ve ripped them off big time.