Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Parking Problems
Nothing takes the ho-ho-ho out of the holidays like an unexpected big bill. Combine that with airport parking, and you've got a recipe for aggravation. It's happening to hundreds of travelers at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood has been the fastest growing airport in the country for 10 of the last 11 years and with that has come growing pains.
If you're not alert, parking could become unexpectedly expensive. Both long-term and short-term parking are located in the same garage, and ending up on the wrong floor can be a costly mistake.
Long-term parking is $12 per day, short-term $36.
Greg Meyer: "Oh, I think it's always a work-in- progress. I think there's always room for improvement."
We talked with the airport's representative, Greg Meyer, after seeing this: confusion at the point travelers must decide if they want long term or short term parking.
Time and again we watched as people backed up to get in the right lane. Some were lucky. No traffic was coming at them. Others played a dangerous game, backing up their vehicles with traffic coming at them from around a turn.
Here, a limo just misses hitting a car that had crossed the stripes.
Another driver spent almost a full minute just parked on the striping, trying to figure out where to go.
And this dangerous driving didn't happen every few days or hours. It happened every few minutes on a day that was not particularly busy.
Even after making a decision, some drivers are still ending up in the wrong parking area. The company that manages airport parking even has a form for people who get confused.
The good news is that they will adjust the fee -- one time only. But you have to know to challenge the higher rate. In this passenger's case, the bill was reduced from $88 to $36, after he convinced authorities he parked in the expensive short-term parking by mistake.
Records show hundreds of these rate adjustments being issued every month.
Greg Meyer: "Well, it's not an ideal situation, and if people are confused maybe there is an opportunity to do something differently."
As we talked, Meyer saw that confusion firsthand as a driver started backing up.
Carmel Cafiero: "See? This is exactly what we have been telling you about."
Carmel Cafiero: "What did you need to know?"
Driver: "Is this short-term parking?"
Carmel Cafiero: "No, this is long-term parking. Short-term is up the ramp. It's kind of confusing, huh?"
John Pistorino: "It is confusing, but it is easily solved I think."
John Pistorino is a professional engineer who has worked on airport design. He took a ride with me to see what's happening, and, right in front of us, someone was backing up, against traffic, at the short-term/long-term entrances.
John Pistorino: "Now, you see right here ... this is decision-making right here."
Pistorino thinks the sign is confusing and doesn't give drivers enough time to figure out where to go.
John Pistorino: "To me, it doesn't really say you have to go up the ramp."
The airport says a review of all the signs here is in the works.
In the meantime, end up in the wrong spot and there is a 15-minute grace period for you to get out without a charge, or you can request an adjustment. Otherwise, hope for directions.