Earlier this year, in search of a new hobby, I took an Amateur radio course (also known as ham radio) and received my license about a month ago. Amateur radio is all about non-commercial communication over radio waves. Most consumer walkie-talkies (like ones using the FRS) work only over several kilometers in the best of conditions. Believe it or not, Amateurs are able to use equipment to communicate all over the world, and even into space contacting the International Space Station using radio frequencies. This kind of communication was probably more popular decades ago when there was no Internet, or cheap long distance phone calls. However, Amateurs still involve themselves in activities such as contests contacting the most people, and on a more practical level (at least to me) emergency and volunteer event communications.
So putting my new license into use, last Sunday I helped out with the Vancouver Sun Run as an Amateur Radio operator. With about 80 other Amateurs, we were positioned in pairs along the entire 10km route.
I went to check out Richmond Night Market at its new location near River Rock Casino. Something they don’t advertise on their website is that there’s a $1.50 admission fee into the venue (side note: they must be making on the order of tens of thousands of dollars a night with this system, not even including booth rental fees!).
I decided it wasn’t worth it since all I wanted to do was a quick wander. I had my radio scanner on during the walk in from Bridgeport Station after seeing some of the traffic control personnel on their FRS walkie-talkies. So as I was walking back through the parking lot, I was listening more intently on the constant broadcasts from the parking crew. I actually walked around the parking lot trying to correlate what I was hearing over the radio to actions on the ground.
From what I could tell, parking and traffic management was taken care of by two groups. Traffic flagging on the streets was contracted out to ATC Traffic Safety, while parking lot direction was done by an in-house team.
I focused on the parking lot situation since that was much more interesting than what was happening on the streets. The setup was that there was one entranceway that extends past No. 3 Road to the northwest. There were several tracks of parking spaces, each labeled an alphabetic letter.
I finally realized that the person spewing out commands over the walkie-talkie was situated on top of a construction lift in the middle of the parking lot. This person acted as “ground traffic control”. From this vantage point he could see which tracks had spaces, and could inform his flaggers on the ground (each also equipped with a walkie-talkie) where to stand and which tracks were best to direct cars into.
The parking team communicated constantly back and forth. From which tracks to push cars into, to dealing with cars needing jump starts, to dealing with drivers who ignore one-way signs, everything was communicated. They were also in constant contact with the site team, so that any related issues were relayed back and forth.
Their test tonight came when there was an accident on stage, and an ambulance was called. Parking was notified by the site team immediately, and the parking supervisor (who I assumed was the guy on the lift) came up with a plan and made sure everyone knew where they were supposed to be, and what they were supposed to do. People were assigned to clear emergency paths, to ensure emergency access gates were manned, who was going to lead the ambulance, etc. They got a plan together within a few minutes, while still dealing with the lineups of traffic coming in and out.
Whether the ambulance actually did arrive is unknown to me as I was leaving around that time. There was quite a delay since it was a non-emergency call, and there was talk about using a car to transport the patient, but when I was waiting for my bus at the Bridgeport bus loop, I once again heard talks of an ambulance.
I think props goes to the parking crew, people who probably don’t receive enough credit, for having an efficient system and excellent communication in trying to get cars parked and departed quickly.
Given the proximity of Bridgeport Station on the Canada Line, I don’t see why more people take public transit to Richmond Night Market. I’d understand needing to drive out to a location like where Summer Night Market is, where there are only limited transit options. But Bridgeport Station is the hub for many suburban services to the south, services to the east, and serviced by the Canada Line for people coming from Richmond or Vancouver. The location is ideal for access via public transit. I’d think that this was a major factor in deciding the location for the venue.
So it turned out instead of having a pointless wander inside Richmond Night Market, I ended up having a nice time analyzing parking lot logistics with my radio scanner.