How to Design the Perfect Queue, According to Crowd Science

“A fair amount of math and formula has been written about it over the years,” says Still, “but that doesn’t take the psychology into account.” There are both positive and negative elements at play when it comes to the psyche of this particular queue. Almost no one in it will ever have waited that long for something in their life, which means they could easily become frustrated.

But for die-hard royal fans determined to pay their respects, there’s another risk. “One of the biggest concerns has always been that people who stand for 20 hours could push their limits,” says Still. According to the London Ambulance Service, 300 people in the queue received medical attention, with 17 being taken to nearby hospitals.

While Kant says the queue isn’t perfect by definition, the 14-hour wait times aren’t as bad as you might think. The government’s queue livestream, which gives estimated physical and temporal lengths of the queue, provides transparency on how long people can expect to wait. That means anyone can approach the challenge ahead with their eyes wide open — even if there have been their hiccups, including directing people to line up in North Carolina. The queue tracker is complemented with regular updates on social media telling people where to start queuing, or actually not to disturb when the queue reaches capacity.

The queue is also an infrastructure challenge as more than 1,000 people – including 779 stewards and 100 volunteer marshals – make sure no one gets in the way. 500 portable toilets have been installed along the queue route, while a wristband system is operational to allow people to exit the queue to get food and drink and not lose their seat. A separate, shorter queue for people with disabilities has stewards who check anyone stopping in the main line and then divert them to the shorter one.

For the accessible queue, the UK Government has borrowed a model from theme parks, many of which offer timed returns and priority access for paying customers, with a limited number of timed slots available each day. They also borrowed another element from the likes of Disney: entertainment. BFI Southbank, a cinema run by the British Film Institute, located on the last mile of the line before arriving at the Palace of Westminster, shows archival footage of the Queen on giant screens outside its building.

Setting expectations is also important, and another lesson we’ve learned from theme parks. Estimated wait times make all the difference, says Still. “Queue systems like Disney, Universal and Six Flags all take that into account,” he says. “It’s about entertaining, informing and distracting the audience.”

Another concept borrowed from theme parks, the snake-like sections that double up to allow more people to be crammed into less space, can be seen not only at Southwark Park but also at Potters Fields Park, about a third of the way down the line , and closer to the end of the queue. These need barriers and staff to make them work.

“It’s just fortunate that this has happened now, after the summer,” says Collinson. “In the middle of the festival season, when it was in full swing, it was maybe even more difficult to get the infrastructure and the stewards.” Such ways of queuing people make the queue appear shorter than it is – a clever psychological trick to try to relieve frustrations.

But one surprise was the comparative lack of concern about waiting in line for so long. Rebellion hasn’t materialized in the form of cuts or complaints of delays. People were more annoyed that they couldn’t get in line in the first place. The queue for the queue is proof of that. “I just call it destiny,” says Kant.

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