Posted October 17, 2013 by Scott Reed 

Waiting Line Control

In recent weeks, a long-term need reared its head again that may warrant some dedicated attention. Like many unions that are the hub for services and programs, we have been experiencing increasing issues with a need for planned control of waiting lines for services or events. We are preparing to give this issue some attention and wanted to share component areas to consider including treating this planning need like an event, potential resources to control it, and related policies, training, or procedures. All of these functions seem to roll into one of four areas including: facility management, operations, event planning, and safety and security.

Facility Management
From facility management perspective, facility design, egress needs, and adjacent space interruption are all factors to consider for line control. For large venues, big ticket sale lines, or other mass event registration lines, facility design can be a consideration. Just like we would plan event space development with design, flow, storage, and amenities, we can now consider line control and traffic needs as well in this planning

Nugget of Knowledge: Consider adding crowd control line design elements to spaces adjacent to major venue and ticket office service line areas.

For our union, planning and physical control of our crowd line issues is mainly the ownership responsibility of our operations or building management staff. This includes “day of” onsite needs as well as preplanning needs. With a recent issue where we had two major events that created two simultaneous long lines of students, this role really kicked in.

For a popular ticket sale event, we had to add rope stanchions, signage, and extra trashcans and had to physically maneuver two long lines to avoid crossing with each other while also not causing egress issues in an adjacent vendor space. Part of impromptu strategy caused us to move one of the lines partially outdoors. This creates another need for crowd control considerations with potential weather safety factors. We also added campus police the second day to help with line control, line jumping, and arguments between students in line.

The final issue with the operations side is students sleeping in the facility prior to a large first day ticket sales event. The operations team has a role here in conducting thorough facility rounds and sweeps when closing the night prior to a large sale to assure fair line development when the facility opens the next morning. Ideas under consideration for us are line ticketing systems, reserving adjacent spaces for a “holding area”, etc.

Nugget of Knowledge: Plan for and communicate crowd control line needs similar to other major event preplanning protocols to assure consistent preparedness.

Event Planning
Every union plans for major events differently. For large events, our team of event management and event logistics responders has numerous protocols for the preplanning of events. Similar to early or late facility access requests, permits, planning thresholds, etc., forecasting high potential registration lines for events or ticket sales can be figured into the mix as well for the planning group.

Nugget of Knowledge: Develop routine preplanning protocols around high probability of long waiting lines.

Safety & Security
The safety perspective of event/sales line control is one that drives other needs or resources. With our top priority being safety for students, considerations for line control safety is critical. We can think of code compliance right out of the gate. Egress codes, occupancy limits, conflict resolution related to line jockeying, and added liability of directing lines into outdoor or other risk related areas are top considerations. We have addressed some of these by requesting a police presence, staffing line control with our team, and collaborating with our campus safety code officials for advising. Further, we always contract with crowd control companies for projected large event thresholds.

Nugget of Knowledge: Line integrity and avoidance of line jumping is extremely important to students in waiting lines. Honor this integrity by putting organization tools in place to reduce conflict and improve service.

In summary, line control needs for events or services are often not at an elevated level, requiring a massive amount of forethought, planning, or additional “day of ” attention. However, as campus venue sizes increase, enrollment increases, and support programs inevitably grow, student unions may need to evolve more intentionally in regards to facility design, event preplanning, and acquiring resources that aide in safe, informed, high service level support for programs that may create major waiting lines.


Scott Reed

Scott Reed is the Associate Director of Student Centers and Activities at Virginia Tech.

Scott oversees and directs services, operations, and facility management needs for four student center buildings. Through this role, he has overseen renovations, served on the campus sustainability committee, led safety planning for the union, and is currently co-chairing a facility management software transition team. A long time member and volunteer for ACUI, Scott received his bachelor’s in sports management from Western Carolina University and his master’s in kinesiology with a concentration in sports and recreation management from James Madison University.


Note: To post a comment to The Commons, you must login to the ACUI website.
about the commons
The Commons is the online hub to discover new ideas and learn what is going on in the college union and student activities profession.
more ...
about the contributors

Meet the ACUI members who have volunteered to share their knowledge and insights as regular authors in The Commons.

more ...