#In 2017, workingwithcrowds conducted a study of ingress flow rates out with sports stadiums turnstile systems. It is hoped that this can be shared in the second half of 2017. 



Flow rates and searching.

A part of the planning for an event is providing flow rates and figures for the ingress of an audience. Guidance provides us with well established figures to base our calculations on; The Green guide and 11 persons per minute passing through a turnstile. After this though, it is down to experience and previous events to provide an estimated flow rate.


Are we always realistic in the figures we provide though?


Let me provide you with a scenario where I base this question.

A multi day event.

  • Outdoors
  • Day 1 – Over 18’s, with a full security search on all customers.
  • Day 2 – family over 14’s event, with a profiled search.

The reason I use this scenario is because I looked at the crowd management plan for both days. Both days had a different profile of audience and requirements for entry in the way of proof of age and searching. Both events though had the same flow rate for entry???

Why, with two differing profiles was the same flow rate used? Was it an oversight and copy and paste error? Was it underestimation of the job role? Was it bowing to the wants of the promoter “  I want this many people in within this time window ” so the figures reflect this time frame?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not question the document, event or provision of the crowd management solution for that event. I use it to bring to the attention the lack of research into crowd flows on entry; out with the use of a turnstile.

Let’s look at some of the factors that may hinder establishing flow rates.


Human factor


By the grace of god (or whatever greater being you believe in), we are all made different. We all have differences in thought, motion and ability. In other words, we are not machines.  This means that we all perform the same task in a different way; even if given set instructions. If you ask ten security guards to search the same 10 people and timed this, the times would differ.


Ticket entry

When it comes to turnstiles we are provided with a minimum requirement of how many persons can enter in optimal conditions. This would rarely be the case, but the ability has to be installed and maintained to achieve this. With the introduction of smart card entry systems we are also removing the human factor.

After this though, there are no stead fast results for entry and limited guidance apart from a calculated judgement for entry without the use of turnstiles. The traditional way of checking the ticket for the purpose of entry was a visual check by usher or steward. Many venues still carry out this function; although this now includes the function of ripping the ticket, so invalidating it and preventing it being used by another.

To assist in combating counterfeit tickets the introduction of barcode scanners has been introduced and is becoming more common at the larger events and venues. This allows hand held devices to validate tickets and prevent the ticket being reused. With the introduction of a computer aided device we now have a method of calculating speed of scanning. There are factors that are out with the computers control though, faulty ticket printing, a ticket in poor condition or a faulty user.

Queue management

A well ordered and flowing queue will assist in passing through a ticket check system. If the person checking the ticket in whatever manner you feel suits, feels under pressure or overwhelmed then they do not meet their highest output. Creating order in front of the ticket checker allows for a higher function and capacity of operation.

Proof of age

The great game when you are underage, try to fool the bouncer/security. An age old tradition well established since the introduction of age limits. This game is ongoing until a better solution is created, but to the crowd manager it creates two problems. First, if an age limit is set on an event, you have to ensure everything you can do to ensure that the correct checks are in place to uphold the licence for the event. Second is lost time. It takes time to check identification; a prime example is a passport control at an airport. For every bit of ID that a steward has to look at, we increase our time window.


The variety of searches that we can conduct at an event, alter the time line and also vary from each person conducting them.

  • Profiled random search
  • Pat down
  • Bag check
  • Full Search
  • Use of metal detectors
  • Airport

Each method should be matched to the event you are planning for.


Do these factors make it impossible to create a flow rate model? Have you ever tried to work out the flow rate?


Unless we try and experiment, test the systems we have and the personnel that we deploy are we not just guessing every time we work out with a turnstile system. In audiences of smaller numbers this does not have a great impact, but when the numbers increase this could have a significant impact. If you underestimate the flow rate you increase the likelihood of queues forming. Do you have the space for this queue to form; do you have a management system in place for when it does? If you where planning of the customers entering at an increased rate, then that would suggest that you would not have a queue management plan in place to the level that you would require. This impacts on the loading of the event and your resources. Redeployment during ingress would weaken other parts of the event for a prolonged period of time.


Maybe with a bit of thought and testing, establishing data to assist in future events can be achieved. Working together can advance our understanding and create safer events.



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