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Monday, October 22, 2012

Latest downtown Portland innovation: Stupid Park

An alert reader sends along a photo and a story:

We were downtown earlier today, my daughter and I, spending time together on her photography project for school. As we returned to our car at the 10th Avenue Smart Park, we noticed a kiosk with a sign saying "Pay Here" or something along those lines. We have parked here for decades, so this new unit caught us off guard. Turns out they have eliminated the human beings in the three payment booths at the exit. You now have to pay at the kiosk with your credit card.

Here's the problem. The line was long. At least 30 people lined up to get a shot at the kiosk. And it took most patrons quite a while to decipher the thing, so it was a long wait just to get our parking ticked paid and stamped. Everyone in line was bitching about the inconvenience of it all. Loss of service, less time-efficient.

We snapped this quick photo of the line and thought of you. Seemed like your reaction would probably have been the same as ours.

Thanks for the update, reader. We stay out of downtown as much as possible and keep our eyes fixed straight ahead when we do go there.

Comments (26)

Dear Portland:

How are you liking my last few months in office?

Love always,

Sam Adams

Standing in a line to pay for parking is further proof that no one wants to go downtown anymore.

So who is actually watching the vehicles parked in these garages? If they can't even employ payment takers, do you honestly think they are beefing up the security staff?

And managed by The Association for Portland progressive! NOT!
The rates went up 40% in July too!
It's off to Washington Square or Tanasbourne for us!

Good thing they fired all those people. Don't need jobs in Portland.

Now if we could just replace the City Council with some old Speak and Spell machines, preferably low on batteries, we'd be making progress.

The frustrating thing about this is that there is STILL a long line at the booth when you finally get your car and leave, because you have to stick your receipt in a machine to prove that you paid. So it's not like you pay before you get your car and then leave with no hassle--no, you wait in a line to pay, and then you wait in another line to prove that you paid.

Well, there it is - how ironic - Portland literally turns something smart into something stupid.

Unlike the ridiculous on-street parking meters, automated pay and exit for parking garages is a sensible system if properly implemented. It is absurd to have people sitting in booths collecting money, and a considerable improvement to have people standing in line in a sheltered spot than to have five stories of idling cars backed up as often would happen after an evening event. Those people can even complain to and about each other, which would be more difficult if each was sitting in a car. Similar systems have been in effect in European cities for at least fifty years, and at the Portland airport for several years now. Exit gates back up only when some clueless person can't manage to pay ahead of time or fumbles the ticket. There are lots of things that would benefit from more human intervention and provide jobs. This ain't one. And by the way, if no one goes downtown anymore, who are all those people waiting to pay?

Exit gates back up only when some clueless person can't manage to pay ahead of time or fumbles the ticket.

Allan--in theory, yes, it's a more efficient design. But I've used the garages probably 4 or 5 times since the change, and so I have a basis for comparing the old system with the new system. Simply put, the old system was better. Not only are the new machines prone to breaking (meaning you have to walk to the other side of the garage to find another one), but they don't take cash, have problems reading credit cards, etc. Then, when you finally get in your car, there is a huge backup. I know that not everybody in Portland is "clueless," to use your words, so if there is a consistent problem with the exit, that must indicate there is some problem with the design, no?

(And I would also point out that while this design exists at the Portland airport, it is OPTIONAL, not mandatory.)

During my brief tour in the military, I developed an intense hatred of lines that persists today. What I see is just one more reason why I've successfully avoided downtown recently.

Anyone besides ME notice anything about the demographics of those standing in line?

I suspect in another 10-15 years, such a line will no longer exist... at least those seen here trying to spend money in downtown Portland.

Not to mention the attendants jobs have now been replaced with what Allan calls "more efficient" machines.
Way to go Portland! Get rid of even more jobs!

There goes downtown. I hadn't been going there too much anyway, but the Smart Parks are where we from the burbs park. Guess COP doesn't want our money. OK.

Channel 12 reported last week the city will be removing the little unmanned parking booths at the Zoo and replacing them with parking meters. No more free parking to visit the Zoo, Forestry Center, Children's Museum or the Hoyt Arboretum, But hey you can walk or bike for free.

There is a nifty parking-pay system out at the airport for the parking structure.

If you forget to pay at one of the kiosks before getting into your car, you can drive up to the exit gates that are marked "Credit Card" and pay at the exit gate. You can insert your card and your ticket.

If you are trusting, you can forgo the ticket when you first enter, and insert your credit card at the start of stay in the structure, and then remember to use the same card when you exit.

Don't worry, the people jobs are intact, as many times upon exiting the automatic gates, there is a friendly employee to help you insert your card or receipt into the reader, and he/she will be happy to give a wave and a thank you as you leave.

I'm not sure what happens when you lose your ticket, or use a different credit card.

Most times, I'm out at the Park-n-Fly were there are always friendly employees. They pick you up at your car, help with your luggage, drop you off near the terminal, and pick you up at the terminal. All at a daily fee less than the PoP charges. Only costs you a little bit more time. Oh, and the lot is quite secure!

If the Oldsters had used their SmartPhones, they could have avoided the lines.


70 days left.
We pay these people to dream up plans to inconvenience us!!
This is not "smart", a lack of respect, there are times I have to ask
whether these schemers hate the people!!
What if one doesn't want to use a credit card?

The future is here, but the transition was not well managed.

Bank transactions used to be handled by tellers, not ATMs.
Airplane boarding passes used to be handled by people, not machines.

In both situations, they transitioned over months and years, always with a person to handle the glitches and newbies.

So should they have done it in this situation, just like at the airport. Have a choice where people who want to exit quickly use the auto-attendant. Those "clueless" people who need a person to feed their ticket/card, could have that as well.

It is all about the management of the thing, which just shows that City of Portland lacks management skills. But they certainly don't lack graft, fraud and bribery skills over at the parking dept.

Dave A. is correct. The only real deterrent to car prowlers and break-ins is now gone. I learned that the hard way – just had my vehicle broken into in the "Smart" Park at 4th & Morrison. Nothing of much value taken, but $350 to replace to door handle and lock assembly.

Will never park in a Smart Park garage again, under any circumstances.

Under the old system I never had to wait behind more than maybe three cars, and that was only a couple times. Usually it was one to two cars. It did not create big back ups in the parking structure.

Similar systems have been in effect in European cities....

The money quote of the whole string and, certainly, the intent of the entire effort.

Meters at the zoo? Another reason not to renew that yearly pass.

A professional associate from a major global corporation came down from Seattle a while back and he told us that up there they joke about Portland and how some day, where all roads enter the city there'll be barricades and border guards demanding that visitors surrender the keys to their vehicles and enter the city by foot or bike. We all laughed for a moment...

The problem is the signage. You CAN pay as you exit with a credit card, but the signs make it sound like you MUST pay at the terminals on the ground floor before going back to your car. You cannot, however, use coupons or vouchers at the exits--those must be done at the ground terminal. And no more cash pay at all.

There's one person on duty for each garage, usually hanging out in the general area of the exit/entrance.

I still prefer dealing with humans and I wish if they'd fix the signage that is so confusing about where/how to pay.

Sounds like the computers are running Portland... As a tax accountant, please teach these new kids that the profit margin can not line item humanity. That is your job Jack.

"So it's not like you pay before you get your car and then leave with no hassle--no, you wait in a line to pay, and then you wait in another line to prove that you paid."

That's not good enough, Comrades!

The Soviet Union was famous for its "three-line" stores - you waited in a long line to select an item, waited in another long line to pay for the item, and then waited in another long line to actually get the item.

The system employed lots of people (a good thing in the USSR), and helped ration consumer goods by making people wait endlessly in line.

We still need to come up with the "third line" at the parking garages - perhaps if you could somehow force people to wait in line before they are allowed to leave the parking structure.

Comrades is right.
I had to go downtown today, refused to deal with those smart park lots. Luckily, I found a street parking space since how many have been eliminated since Adams has been Mayor?
By the way, does he still drive the big truck?

From the picture alone it is hard to explain exactly what happened yesterday, but we certainly understand a customer's frustration at having to wait in line.

Pay stations are conveniently located in each elevator lobby at the 10th & Yamhill garage. Above each of the four pay stations is a map of the locations of the other pay stations. Sometimes a backup does occur when a customer is unsure how to use the pay station or during special events in Downtown Portland when many customers are trying to exit at the same time. We are working on additional signage at each pay station to describe the parking payment process step by step.

This garage is staffed 24 hours a day, and customer service assistance is available. On each pay station is an intercom button that connects to our call center where one of our customer service representatives can verbally explain how to use the machine and has remote access to resolve most of the issues that may arise.

Since we completed our SmartPark garage automation project this summer, we continue to look for ways to improve its operation and make parking as easy as possible. Please visit for more information. Thanks.


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