Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Sandz yes - but don't forget Jazz and Blues - Target traffic control, not only venue choice

Published:Saturday | January 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Traffic gridlock along the Palisadoes strip caused by unruly motorists attending the New Year's Day party.
Celine Dion performing at a previous Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival in Trelawny.

In all the brouhaha over the traffic snarl along the Palisadoes strip and the dual carriageway from the Harbour View roundabout towards Kingston on Monday night, we may be missing a significant opportunity to address traffic control at high volume entertainment events. For while the Sandz New Year's Day party was the specific cause this time, we have been here before and we will get into another situation of traffic gridlock spoiling the party for those who attended and those who did not.

What is required is a policy on parking and traffic management which is applied across the board, not a knee jerk reaction to a particular situation. Granted, this one was particularly bad because of how it affected the Norman Manley International Airport, as well as (incorrect) assumptions that it indicated a failure of the fledgling establishment of entertainment zones. Still, that should not lead us into the dead end of focusing on one instance and neither should we assume that it was 'those people' again.


Familiar narrative


For the reported unruliness of some persons who attended Sandz on New Year's Day 2018 is no different from that of the persons who attended Jazz and Blues at the Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium in January 2012, when Celine Dion performed. On the face of it, Jazz and Blues is a classier event than Sandz, but to approximate the late Professor Ralston 'Rex' Nettleford's encapsulation of the futility of social mobility through flagrant materialism, not only is a bhutto in a Benz still a bhutto, but the same goes for BMWs, Hondas, Toyotas, Jamcos and Yeng Yengs.A reminder of the coverage from that event is timely. On January 29, 2012, The Gleaner's Janet Silvera reported:

"A chaotic traffic pile-up on the North Coast Highway corridor threatened to muddy the best-ever Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, yet failed to overwhelm the performance of top-billed artiste, Celine Dion.

According to Walter Elmore, chairman of Art of Music Productions (AMP), organisers for the event, at the end of the day people will forget the traffic problem, but won't forget how they were thrilled by the stellar feat of Dion.

Abandoning all systems, drivers transformed the two-lane highway into five, causing total gridlock for persons coming into Trelawny from Kingston and Montego Bay."

"... Many patrons are not letting up so easily and have cautioned that their continued attendance is dependent on drastic changes to traffic management.

"There had to be constant monitoring, evaluation and adjustments to the process of traffic throughout the night as the crowd swelled and patrons grew anxious at the prospect of possibly missing a favoured performer. It took me three and half hours from the Ritz-Carlton in Rose Hall to get to the venue, and when I got there I was required to walk through the thickest of dust to get to the gates," visiting United States communications specialist Yvonne Wilks said."

That traffic snarl would doubtless have affected the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

In the early 2000s I was in one of the infamous traffic snarls following the end of a staging of Rebel Salute at Port Kaiser, St Elizabeth. It took about two hours for me to move about 100 metres trying to exit a parking lot and many were the drivers who cursed and played dodge em with the vehicles of fellow sufferers. So what did the organisers do? They called in the ultimate traffic management experts, the police, who were involved in the planning to the point of speaking at the event's launch and hey presto all was as well as it could be.

Why should this level of police input not be a requirement for events of a magnitude where a particular volume of persons is expected (they can be identified by the build-up over time, as well as the components of a particular staging) and venue accessibility presents challenges? I believe it should be mandatory to not just have a few cops present on the night but have them involved from the groundwork is being laid.

And there is an additional benefit as well when shady characters know that the police are integrated into an event, they may behave a little better or just stay away and let the good times roll, along with the traffic.