System to be replaced by end of year
Owen Roberts International Airport’s paid-parking system continues to be plagued by glitches since it was first installed in early 2006.
In the meantime, the airport has apologized to customers for the challenges they are facing and is asking everyone to bear with them as they move forward with plans to staff booths at the exit gates by September to accept payment.
A new automated system is expected to be in place before the end of the year.
According to Bianca Moore-Downey, chief of customer and commercial services for the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, the replacement of the entire parking system was to have been part of the overall redevelopment of the airport, which is under way. However, because of the ongoing problems with the pay machines, the Authority is going ahead now with plans to replace the system.
The parking system at the airport was first installed so that an attendant would not be needed for fee collection and to afford parking lot users the convenience of conducting all transactions through an automated system.
Since its installation, however, the system has not functioned well. Officials say there are three main problems: the pay machine fails to issue change (because of a faulty mechanism); the machine fails to read ticket stubs that indicate how much is owed for parking; and sometimes it does not recognize CI bills.
Even when travelers have paid and received a receipt, the machines at the exit gates often fail to read the card and open the gate, resulting in motorists having to call a parking attendant.
Machines were never popular
In March 2006, two weeks after the paid-parking machines were installed, the Compass ran a story under the headline, “Airport parking tries patience”.
“As I imagine there would be with any new technical installation, there are some glitches,’ then-senior manager of Airport Operations Airports Authority Kerith McCoy said at the time. Among the problems mentioned was that the machines rejected some CI bills.
The automatic pay system comes from U.S.-based Federal APD, described as a world leader in revenue parking systems.
Following the machines’ installation, the Airports Authority assured the public that the whole redesign of the parking lots and use of the new system would prove to be an effortless process and very user-friendly.
However, the Authority acknowledges that the automated machines were never popular with the public.
“People preferred the face-to-face interaction, where they could just pay their money directly at the gate, from the feedback we received from the public,” said Ms. Moore-Downey. As a result, she said, the Authority will explore that option as well in the redesign.
“The parking system has just run its life cycle, and we have a very difficult time finding parts. The part which issues the one dollar bills for change has to be replaced. We sent the part off-island to be repaired by the manufacturer, but it is taking a long time to come back,” she said.
In the meantime, Ms. Moore-Downey said, the Authority is working on a short-term solution – putting booths at the gate and going back to a manual point-of-sale system.
“People will be able to drive up to the gate, hand their tickets to the cashier, get their change and be let out of the parking lot,” under the new system that should be up and running by September, said Ms. Moore-Downey. “It will be a short-term fix until the system is replaced. The goal is to have the new system in place by December of this year in time to accommodate the high season.”
As for the new replacement system, Ms. Moore-Downey said, “We are not limiting ourselves, but opening up all the possibilities. We are not parking experts, but there are experts out there in the community that know what is best for the environment.
“Basically, when the request for proposal goes out in the next couple of weeks, we will be asking the parking company to recommend to the CIAA what are the best options and systems for the Cayman environment,” she said.