Investigator: Hopkins passengers complain about parking garage, escalators

CLEVELAND -- Passengers at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport have complained to Channel 3 News about glitches with the new parking system and escalators that always seem to be out of order.

"It's a bunch of (expletive)," said one passenger, who complained he has difficulty walking and found no available spaces in what used to be the short-term parking garage.

That garage is now known as the smart parking garage because of a $2,798,600 high-tech lighting system.

That system alerts drivers as they enter the garage of any empty spaces. Overhead lighting inside the garage directs motorists to open spots on four levels.

A "red" overhead light means the space is occupied. A "green" light means the spot is open.

"I don't think it works well. It shows things that were green that weren't green or open," said one passenger.

Another passenger told Channel 3 news that she was "surprised it was green and it was open because, usually, it doesn't work that well."

Channel 3 news visited the smart lot four times and, on each occasion, found at least one or two of the lights not working properly. These were spaces where vehicles were parked but they still displayed the green lights overhead.

Airport Director Ricky Smith says the system has an overall error rate of less than one per cent.

"Early on we had glitches and we worked those out. It allows us to use that garage to almost 100 percent," he said.

Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson said he's been receiving similar complaints regarding the smart lot from businessmen in his ward who travel often.

"The whole idea was to get them in and get them out as soon as possible and it's not working," Johnson said.

The parking rates for the smart lot just this week jumped again. It has gone from $14 a day in 2012 to $17 a day this week.

In addition to complaints about parking, passengers say they often encounter escalators that are out of order. Channel 3 News found two broken escalators on two recent visits to the airport.

"The demand that our passengers put on these moving walkways and escalators is enormous," said Smith.

Smith apparently thought the primary problem was with an escalator in Concourse D, which is now closed. But the malfunctioning escalators Channel 3 found were ones leading from the parking garage to the ticket counter inside the terminal.

"We have a new company, a new contract that's now doing a much better job maintaining those systems," Smith said.

Also, Smith said a vendor is constantly monitoring the smart lot to identify problems. He says they're constantly calibrating the system to try to eliminate all glitches.

It's been a year since the smart parking technology became fully operational. Passengers say work still needs to be done.


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