Inside the Basket - Dennis Christiansen, Balloon Fiesta Transportation Manager
Dennis Christiansen is Balloon Fiesta’s Transportation Manager. He works with several local and state entities to help get guests to and from the event.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, Dennis shares some of this year’s Park & Ride successes, as well as the most difficult part of his job.
1. What is your position at Balloon Fiesta and how long have you worked there?
I am the Transportation Manager at Balloon Fiesta. I have been in this position for a year and a half.
2. What is your favorite part of your job and what is the hardest?
My favorite part of my job is being a member of this team that is responsible for putting on this amazing and spectacular event. An event that is the most photographed in the world that brings so many smiles to visitors from around the globe due to the incredible views of hundreds of hot air balloons traversing the blue skies, set upon the picturesque backdrop called the Sandia Mountains right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The hardest part of my job is the planning and logistics that goes into the traffic portion of my position. Working with local and state entities makes this part of my job a little easier and at times indeed a little more challenging. Deciding and implementing what I think is the right course of action based out of this collaboration is the most challenging part of my position here at Balloon Fiesta.
3. How would you describe the Park & Ride successes at this year’s event?
Park & Ride was indeed a big success this year. We had over 5,000 survey responses from our riders this year with overwhelmingly positive feedback which is proof that hard work and the planning really does and did pay off. This resulted in a positive experience for our guests that chose this mode of transportation despite the issues that occurred during last year’s 2018 Balloon Fiesta.
4. What was the focus on improving traffic and parking at Balloon Fiesta this year?
The focus this year was separating west side drivers from east side drivers and vice-versa. To eliminate the commingling of vehicles in an area around the park that is already congested with heavy traffic due to our events every morning and evening was a large focus this year with our team.
We accomplished this by moving some RVs from the South RV lot which opened a large parking area we could utilize for traffic coming from the west side. We also worked with Presbyterian Health, who recently purchased the former Honeywell parking lot to use a portion of that lot for guests coming from the east side. We added 20% more signage on all routes leading into & out of the park as well as updated our Traffic Control Plan of the area with the various law enforcement agencies. This result helped drivers to be in the correct lanes and gave officers of those various agencies information early enough to help mitigate choke points and backups, all of which helped disperse traffic bottlenecks that happen because of those blockages.
We also worked with APD, BCSO and State Police on intersection management which did help to eliminate traffic backups around those intersections close to the park this year as well.
5. What advice do you have for Balloon Fiesta guests visiting for the first time?
The best advice I can give to our out of town visitors would be to utilize our park and ride service, to let us do the driving for you so you can enjoy a stress-free ride into our event. Also, if you are bicycle riders I would recommend using our free Bike Valet service to get to our event. It is a great way to burn some calories, so you can enjoy our Main Street concessionaires and all the great food that complements our event guilt-free which is always a plus.
Finally, if you do decide to drive, leave from your home or hotel early. Early is the key as traffic is very heavy around the park despite our best efforts to mitigate it. Pre-plan and know the route you would like to take and pay attention to the signage directing you to the area which will help to keep traffic moving, reduce stress and congestion for yourselves and keep those routes both into and out of the park a little less congested for everyone joining you on the road.
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