Saturday, January 2, 2016

Crowdsourced management

The year-end rush had led us to improve our systems of Eco Park Crowd Management.  The Eco Park was inaugurated just 3 years ago (Phase 1 was opened to public on 1 January 2013 after Hon'ble CM Mamata Banerjee inaugurated it in Dec 2012) and this time there was this record turnout of almost 1 lakh visitors on New Year's Day (94,000 tickets sold at gates). This was also the first time that year-end was celebrated on 31 Dec 2015 till 12 midnight (Eco Park usually closes at 7.30pm). There were no precedents, no standard operating procedure. We improvised (for several hours on New Year's Day the Curator himself manned a ticket booth to issue entry tickets to ease pressure at the gates, that too after 11 additional counters were planned and running), analysed (there were 61,000 visitors on New Year's Day last year so how many would be likely this year?), we discussed, we planned and we executed. And we crowd-listened.

I got a facebook feedback saying that the ticketing area of Mother's Wax Museum was too crowded on Christmas Day (there was this highest ever footfall with 3,444 tickets sold). Someone suggested, can we bring the counters down to ground floor from 6th floor? We did, and we got space to put in two  additional ticket counters at ground floor, used 3 lifts instead of one to go up and stairs to come down , with queue managers to guide people. The crowd on New Year (3,375 tickets sold) was handled like a breeze.

I got twitters that transport back from Eco Park was a problem on Christmas Day. People, some said, came at times that suit them but all exit in a short time span. So I talked to Transport Department, got several additional buses, also put two shuttle buses to divert crowd to other attractions of Urba Eco Village and New Town Mela, and increased the number of car parking lots drastically. There was still jams on the Biswa Bangla Sarani despite valiant efforts by policemen but the number was too large anyway.

I saw the long queues in toilet blocks on Christmas day. Although the number of such conveniences in Eco Park had improved over the last three years substantially, the facilities were not equipped to handle such huge numbers. In the few days in between, engineers constructed series of ladies' toilets with bamboo and mat and there was significantly less queues at toilets.

I saw how dustbins overflowed on previous occasions and ensured that NKDA's clean team operated at hourly intervals. A compactor truck was parked in Eco Park Service roads so that solid wastes could be transported then and there. For all dustbins start overflowing within hours. This went on very well till the increasing crowds made it impossible from the three-wheeler pick-up vans from moving. Indeed the battery powered eco carts stopped moving from 2 pm onwards because the crowds in the pathways were just too huge.

For the 31st night, we realised that managing the huge eco park for a New Year Eve Party would be quite difficult. So, in consultation with Javed Shamin, Commissioner of Police Bidhannagar, I decided to close all areas near gates 2-6 and cordon off the area. Only in Rabi Aranya were people allowed to stay till midnight. (2,700 tickets were sold from gate 1 counter post 7.30pm) and only open ticket counter, car parking and entry gate number 1. I, Curator Partha Ghosh and GM Suman Neogy strolled the area and stayed at the watch tower, keeping an eye on everything till 12 midnight.

For the first time, we strung a Public Address System that could be heard throughout the Eco Park. This was put in charge of a senior officer deputed in a control room at Eco Park Office. I was most touched when a father, tears in eyes, came to thank me at my chamber in the Eco Park Office when he got his missing child back, thanks to the announcement in the PA system (we often asked the parents themselves to speak on the system so that the child reacts better). Sisir Guha, Officer-in-Charge of the Control Room said that he had succeeded in recovering 138 lost children on New Year Day.

I'd myself rushed to talk to police and Disaster Management Group people and local boatmen on 30th Dec evening itself to know more about the incident of a man slipping into the eco park lake and how he was recovered. Taking lessons, I ensured that there were security guards at both watch towers on 31st and 1st at all times so that we could keep  watch. I also ensured that life-savers were sitting on the waterfront on 1st at every 200 metre intervals. We also had the NKDA doctor in he Control Room throughout the day.

I realise that we now need to analyse and take more robust steps to handle crowds in eco park during such high-turnout days. Few things that we have decided to address in the months to come are as follows:

1. The number of CCTVs are not adequate: we need to install many more systematically. Video analytics would also be required.
2. Manual ticketing has to be supplemented with remote ticketing (buy at stores or on net) and smaart ticketing, many preferably autmatic/ non-manual.
3. Smart car parking to optimise revenue collection and to connect tourists to their drivers easily during exit (the mobile network become quite jammed; I could not call my driver too as all lines were
4. Planned indicators and maps at more frequent intervals not only inside the Eco Park but also outside in the roads leading to it.
5. LCD displays to announce message of the minute by traffic police at frequentintervals on the service road.
6. Separation of entry and exit gates,
7. Engagement of divers / 'nulias' to keep watch over the waters
8. Use of drones to get real-time video of crowded areas and take preventive measures.
9. Putting up of more May I Help You kiosks.
10. Putting up more toilets and snack shops
11. Putting in a Public Address System that can beam voice at selected zones or at all zones, optionally

I produce hereunder clippings from few newspapers of today showing how people enjoyed yesterday:

Hindustan Times, page 1 dt 2 Jan 2015

Ajkal 2 Jan 2015

Telegraph Metro dt 2 Jan 2015

Ei Samay dt 2 Jan 2016

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Anandabazar dt 2 Jan 2015

Ties of India dt 2 Jan 2016

Times of India dt 2 Jan 2016

Telegraph Metro dt 2 Jan 2016

Ei Samay dt 2 Jan 2016

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