Paid-parking system plagues airport for eight years

System to be replaced by end of year

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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. 

Short-term solution  

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. 

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A traveler shows off her ticket and receipt, but she did not receive her change from the paid-parking machine at the airport. – Photo: Jewel Levy

1 COMMENT

  1. I never liked the automated system and from my perspective it has not worked properly from the day it was installed. That being said, my concern with the short term solution that is being proposed is that the parking attendants will be easy targets for the criminals within our community.

  2. On my last visit the pay machines were both out of order and everyone had to queue at the taxi booth to pay.As it was very busy this took 20 mins and also held up tourists waiting for a taxi.Then on exit nobody was there to let us out!.
    Every time there is a problem at the airport we discover there is another chief in the CIAA hierarchy.It seems there are not enough Indians to service the public, but innumerable heads consuming taxpayer funds at an alarming rate, so typical of Government and it’s agencies.

  3. Before the automatic pay system was installed, short-term parking was 1 per hour and an attendant accepted the cash, so drivers spent less time dealing with the system. The introduction of the machine-based payment system resulted in the parking rate being doubled to 2 per hour, presumably to pay for all the machinery that replaced the human attendant. It will be interesting to see what happens to the parking fee structure with the next revamp of the system.

  4. This was a stupid idea in the first place. Automated systems are supposed to save money not cost more. Not only did the parking fees go up but we are paying for the technology that put people out of work and still costs more then the employees did.

  5. I like the automation but these machines seem to be totally unreliable. It would be better if they would at least program the arm so that it would default in the raised position when these machines break down…which seems to be often.

  6. Please someone explain to me if there’s no savings, no value for money, less reliability and is actually costing more, then why replace the human factor and put people out of work? I’d really like to know what the person was thinking that did put this in motion. Did they think that these machines were just more reliable than the people that used to do the job ?

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