Little’s law

by Edward Z. Yang

A short thought from standing in line at the World Expo: Little’s law is a remarkable result that relates the number of people in a queue, the arrival rate of people to the queue, and the time spent waiting in the queue. It seems that it could be easily applied to a most universal feature of theme parks: waiting queues. Instead of such unreliable methods as giving visitors tokens to test how long it takes to traverse some portion of the line and then eyeballing the wait time from there, it would be a simple matter to install two gates: one to count incoming visitors and one to count outgoing visitors, and with this data derive an instantaneous “wait time in queue” figure based on a smoothed running average of queue size and arrival rate. Added benefit for being electronic, which means you can easily beam it to information boards across the park!

It occurs to me that I don’t have any evidence that theme parks aren’t already using this technique, except maybe for the fact that their posted wait times are wildly inaccurate.