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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Q & A

A reader writes:

Have you parked in the garage near the airport recently? I was there yesterday and each spot has a sensor installed above it with two lights -- red for occupied, green for empty. And each row has a readout at the end of how many spaces are available in each. Seems like a lot of money for the Port to spend on this gadget. Can't people be smart enough to know how to navigate a parking garage anymore?
Dear reader:

We checked with the Port, and we are assured that those lights were actually installed for free by Bechtel in exchange for development rights on the Ikea lot. The original plan was for the lights to be strung on condo buildings in the "urban village" during the holidays, but of course the tragedy of 9/11 ruined all that.

An interesting but often overlooked feature is that the lights are programmed to blink continuously for 30 seconds as each batch of meatballs becomes available.

The installation in the airport garage is part of an ongoing pilot project. If the system works there, similar lights will soon be installed over each pothole in the City of Portland, alerting motorists as to whether there is already a vehicle fallen into the hole.

Comments (9)

similarly, these lights will be installed above each commissioners' and the mayor's desk to indicate the emanation of BS...

or worse

Those Port of Portland property taxes are a totally separate budget line item from CoP road repair funds. Totally different animal: left pocket v. right pocket.

The only way the Port of Portland could put flashing lights on the potholes would be if they built multi-level potholes first.

Alternately, we could actually use urban renewal funds to fix dilapidated urban roads. That would be neat!

I don't know about who funded those lights, but they were great last time I was at the airport. Instead of having to prowl up and down a row, you can quickly go to the one with an empty space.
Not a big deal at an off-hour, but on a busy day (like I was) it saves 10-20 min easily.

I have to agree with AJ...in the past, much time was spent cruising up and down the aisles wasting valuable time.

Once you learn (it aint rocket science) how they are set up, you can motor right to an open spot, no prowling required....

If they were truly paid for by Bechtel, even better....

We can seriously doubt whether anything can really be free if it involves Bechtel, or whether the dollars might have been better spent elsewhere, or whether it was done as efficiently as the private sector might do it - that I'll grant. But these do seem worthwhile to me nonetheless, and I don't think they're extravagent.

The reason the private sector hasn't voluntarily done this in other garages, is quite simple: The dollars spent on the system would mostly produce a return to customers, not to the garage owner/operator. It takes a mandate from the public sector to step forward to do things like this, when faced with such economics.

In addition to the aforementioned reduction in time spent prowling the aisles, and less aggrvation, it saves fuel and reduces CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

I agree with AJ. They are freakin great. 10-20 minutes saved on a busy day.

I lived for a year in Baltimore, and BWI airport had this system, which was great. It was simple to look down a row and see if any green lights were on, instead of prowling up and down the rows to see if there might be an open space hidden among the Suburbans and Excursions. As an aside, BWI also allowed for 30 minutes (or an hour, I don't remember) of free parking, which made drop offs and pickups easier and cheaper and made for fewer circling cars on the terminal roadway. Don't look for the Port to adopt that practice (although I do remember the airport doing this over the Christmas/New Years rush at some point).

Free? Nothing is free. Remember the light rail to the airport was "free" because the Port Authority gave away the development rights of the vacant land around the airport to the developer. Thing about that - "free" development rights. Mike Thorne the well-heeled Eastern Oregon guy who was the leader of the port "pack" at that time gave away the "free" development rights. But not to worry, the "free" development rights are only for 99 years.


Hey folks, I was only kidding! Bechtel didn't buy the lights. And they don't blink when the meatballs come out, either...

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