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Re: [Debconf-team] [DC14] Portland team: questions after reading the bid



Hi Ana,

On Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 11:12:30PM +0100, Ana Guerrero wrote:
> * Airport / Transport

> Portland International Airport doesn't have too many international
> connections so some attendees might land in the USA via Seattle Airport or
> even Vancouver (Canada), and then continue by land (because personal
> preference or price difference).
> What are the transport possibilities from these cities to Portland?

It is unlikely that ground transportation for the "last mile" would be
cheaper than a complete booking by plane.  It is almost always cheaper (and
safer, in terms of recourse with the carrier in the event of delays) to fly
through to your destination city in the US, rather than connecting to ground
transportation for the last leg.  Many times, it's even cheaper than a
flight to the connecting city would be!

However, for those that insist, Amtrak does run several trains a day between
Seattle and Portland on the "Amtrak Cascades" line, a journey of
approximately 3.5 hours departing from the Tukwila, WA train station (AFAIK,
the closest station to the Seattle airport on the line).  The Seattle
airport is itself 30 minutes from the Tukwila train station by public
transit (vs. 46 minutes from downtown Seattle).

The Amtrak Cascades line also runs through to Vancouver, BC with reduced
frequency, and there are other train connections available in Seattle
between the two endpoints.  This journey is approximately 8 hours by train.

There is also a new bus service, called the BoltBus, which connects downtown
Portland to downtown Seattle with a 3 hour bus ride departing several times
a day.  More information is available at boltbus.com.

> How difficult and expensive is to go from the airport to PSU?

The fare on the light rail system is $2.50 per trip.  The light rail that
runs to the airport will drop you off < 200m from the dorm, with one train
change.  Route planning information can be found at trimet.org.

> * Visas

> I'm assuming we would send invitation letters to known people who want to 
> attend DebConf as we do every year.
> Can we count with the help of somebody specialized in visas and/or from the 
> Government to help us in some of the difficult cases?

We intend for invitation letters to be sent, yes.  I expect we can reuse the
invitation letter from DC10 with minimal changes.

The bid team does not have direct contact with anyone who can help with
visas; this was a topic that I intended to pursue with the DC10 team in
greater detail if Portland is chosen.  (Cf. Jimmy's recent mail to the
list.)

> * Prices

> You mention the following items:
> * "(breakfast, lunch, dinner) at the conference is $20/person/day"
> * "Our target package is USD 7200/week" (conference facilities)
> * dorm "USD 28/person/night" up to 250 person and then 270 people in 
> The Broadway at a higher rate of USD 33/person/night. 
> So 48USD/person/day up to 250 person and then 52USD/person/day for the
> remaining full board places.

53USD/person/day - otherwise, correct.

> I understand that the conference facilities can scale with the size of the
> conference and be rented only for hours, which is a plus.  But I'm curious
> about how much extra cost in security there might be to have the hacklabs
> open 24h.

We have not pursued pricing information for the extra security - they say
they'd be willing to accomodate the request, but that the question had never
come up before.  My recommendation is to use the residence hall's common
space for the night hacklab instead; bearing in mind that campus policy only
allows alcohol consumption in campus buildings if it's a) in the privacy of
one's own room or b) catered by a licensed bartender, I think there will be
a general preference for the night hacklab to be closer to accomodations so
that people can wander in and out; being on the way to/from bedrooms will
increase the chances of people casually happening by.

> * Accommodation

> You mention a place named "University Place Hotel" 800m away from the
> conference facilities.  what we can expect there?  Is this a dorm?  The
> "Hotel" part has me wondering.

It's a hotel, associated with the university and used for conferences etc.:

  http://www.uplacehotel.com/

Sorry, I hadn't noticed that the references to the University Place Hotel
still implied we were considering it for sponsored accomodations.  We've
since ruled this out, so I've corrected the wiki page.  The UPlace Hotel is
still available as an option for non-sponsored accomodations, among other
hotel options in the area.

> Later, you mention "The Ondine" 250m away from the facilities and The
> Broadway, how far is that?  What room capacity can we expect in these
> dorms?

The Broadway and The Ondine are both roughly 250m from the venue.  I've
updated the bid page with the address of The Broadway.

> You mention hotels at an easy walking distance. How much is that? 200m?
> 500m?  1km?  :)

The Marriott Downtown Waterfront hotel is 1km away through a
pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.  The Hilton Portland & Executive Tower,
not on the waterfront, is appx. 800m away.  Other closer hotels include the
Hotel Modera and the Downtown Value Inn.

> * Food

> I would appreciate more details about the food.  When you say cafeteria in
> the residence hall, is this place the same that was mentioned under dorms
> (University Place Hotel)?

The residence hall in question is The Ondine.

> * Children

> Does the hotel/university or some other place in the city provide
> childcare services?  (At a fee, of course)

We inquired about child care; the university does not have any service of
this kind, they only have long-term child care facilities (i.e., with spaces
allocated for the university term, not for a day or a week).  Everyone
staying in the campus housing will also have access to the rec center (also
< 250m from everything), and there's an open park right behind the venue, so
it should be relatively easy for parents to self-organize some kind of
creche as has been suggested in the past.

I don't have any information about other paid child care options that might
exist.  There are two KinderCare facilities nearby (< 1km), but there may be
the same problem of long-term vs. short-term enrollment.

> * Backup plan

> Imagine a bad scenario, where we don't decide until mid-April and the
> University is not available any more.  What is your backup plan?  Or what
> are the possibilities that you would look at?

We are early enough in the university's planning calendar that I do not
expect a decision in April to cause a problem for the university's
availability.  We have a tentative hold on the accomodation space until the
end of April, which is the hardest piece of the puzzle - even if we have to
go with a different on-campus venue than the memorial union, or have to
change dates, we should still be able to have the conference at PSU even in
the "fallback" case.

If the decision actually goes so late that we lose PSU as an option, things
become much more expensive rather quickly.  Portland has played host to many
Free Software conferences over the years and there are many hotels in the
Portland area that are equipped to handle high-tech conferences (including
the University Place and the Marriott Downtown Waterfront), but none of
these are going to be a match for the university in terms of its favorable
pricing and technical capacity.  If it comes to that, the team should give
serious reconsideration to Venezuela as the venue instead, as such a delay
is likely to wipe out any advantage Portland might have over Puerto La Cruz.

On a personal note, I think a late venue decision would result in so much
added work/stress on the local team to attempt to secure an alternative
venue (and a poorer alternative at that), that I would be disinclined to
pursue these alternatives even if that was the DebConf committee's
preference.  However, other members of the local team feel differently, so I
have been dissuaded from representing this as the bid team's position.

> * Dates

> Would the prices change substantially if we did the conference on dates not 
> in mid-late August?

The prices remain the same throughout the year.  The only thing that changes
is availability.  The university's group hosting season runs from June 20 to
the end of August, so provided we can find a time in that range when all the
facilities are available, the price will be the same.

-- 
Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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