How Venues Use Waze Program To Improve Fan Experience

Tacoma Dome
– Tacoma Dome
The Tacoma Dome is among the venues partnering with traffic app Waze.

Tacoma Venues & Events, the city-run entity that operates venues such as the Tacoma Dome, was the 100th venue operator to partner with the largest crowdsourcing traffic app, Waze. Now, with the Waze Global Event Partners program stretching beyond 200 participants, Tacoma offers up the newest from Waze: carpooling.

“This is another tool we can offer to encourage fans to share a ride and share their experience while helping to reduce the traffic that can be associated with large-scale events,” said Kim Bedier, Tacoma Venues & Events director.

The Waze app serves as a free partner with venues around the world. About 60 percent of those partners reside in the United States. Roughly two years into the event partner program, Paulo Cabral, Waze business development director, said the growth has proved to be organic and the partnerships serve as a win all the way around, with Waze benefiting from more users and venues reducing key pain points for visitors: travel time and parking.

As part of the larger Waze application programming interface, the app depends on users to input real-time information about traffic conditions for drivers to find the most efficient routes to their destinations. With the venue partnership, event organizers have access to upload closures and other near-venue conditions to help fans gain the best information for travel. Event organizers can also integrate parking lot information into the app, directing those who paid for parking in advance to the correct lot, cutting down on traffic buildups in specific locations.

Further collaboration with cities, counties and police allows real-time Waze data to open dynamic traffic lighting so that officials can keep vehicles moving and ease congestion, helping fans get to the venue and easing the stress on the rest of the public traveling near the venue.

Venues without their own app can point users directly to the Waze app – but with the updated information – and send links to the Waze-loaded information through newsletters, e-tickets and more. Waze can create customized event websites and shareable links with driving directions and offers branded Waze inbox messages with live road closures. Those with their own app often integrate Waze directly into their own operations. “One size does not fit all,” Cabral said. “We do have options for different types of partners.”

Kim Bedier
– Kim Bedier

Bedier said Tacoma promotes Waze using pre-event messaging through multiple channels and now “thousands of guests” have joined the effort. “Tacoma Dome staff input anticipated road closures directly into the Waze portal, and combined with the real-time driving data from other users, fans are directed to the fastest route,” she said. “The market overall here is very tech-savvy and Waze already has hundreds of thousands of monthly users, so encouraging them to use the app is a natural fit.”

Two Atlanta venues that opened last year, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park, are among the highest-profile facilities to align themselves with Waze.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta was among the first in professional sports to partner with Waze. The partnership means that Waze is the only GPS program with the stadium’s event-day traffic plans and street closures incorporated, offering the most detailed route information.

SunTrust Park relies on this partnership for a value-add for fans. With the baseball stadium featuring parking lots in a 360-degree array around the venue, the Waze partnership gives users who have prepurchased parking exact directions to their specific lot entry point without giving out the address. “It helps users navigate the lots,” Cabral said, “instead of them all coming in one specific point.”

Waze also includes a feature that helps fans plan their drive, incorporating everything from traffic and parking to offer up the best time to leave. “We want to help them in how to get there and how to get out,” Cabral said.

With such a premium placed on users and event organizers inputting data – event organizers handle the road closures and rerouting near the venue, but they still rely on drivers to help give real-time updates farther from the destination – Cabral said they also opened up a “partner portal” to allow partners to communicate directly with Waze to push improvements and adaptation.

As Waze values gaining more exposure and users through the partnerships, Bedier said she continues to promote it because she believes it enhances the customer’s overall experience while saving visitors time and money.

Adding the carpool features serves as a natural extension.

Launched so far only in a few states – including Washington, California and Texas – the Waze Carpooling feature allows fans to announce a planned trip on the app and have other fans in the area join the ride in an effort to alleviate traffic by taking more cars off the road. Waze and the venues also hope the personal connections create a more interactive event experience.

“We noticed that fans were already trying to connect through social media to share rides, and the Waze Carpool tool is perfect for linking up these riders and drivers,” Bedier said. “The system is customizable, so riders and drivers can choose who to ride with based on their social profiles and other filters.”

Another reason to promote the app, which has seen up to 8 percent usage in Tacoma, according to Bedier, comes in the form of gaining access to “rich data like distance traveled and arrival times of our guests that we can analyze and use for future event planning.”

As venues learn about their users, Cabral said, they can also learn from each other. High-profile partners, such as the venues in Atlanta, help communicate the message of how the app works. A 2017 summit in New York City hosted by Waze sought to bring together venue users to share these best-use scenarios.

Moving forward, Cabral said Waze will continue to roll out the carpool feature in additional states while growing partnerships across the globe, especially Latin America and Europe.  

Waze’s Paulo Cabral, Head of Global Event Partners, will appear at this week’s VenuesNow Conference on the panel “Get Me To the Show on Time: How Technology is Solving the Event Traffic Puzzle.”

This story originally appeared on Pollstar’s sister publication VenuesNow