Tuesday, January 3, 2012

BWI "Express Parking": #Fail

I spent much of December writing about a man coping with his own mortality. Now, I turn to a far more mundane, but equally universal, topic: man’s quest for parking.
I’m specifically referring to the parking situation at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

For those of you unfamiliar with parking at BWI, there are several different state-run parking options at the airport: the “Hourly Garage” ($22 a day); the “Daily Garage” ($12 a day); “Express Parking” ($10 a day); and “Long Term Parking” ($8 a day). There are also privately-run parking options around the airport, as well as a state-run shuttle which takes people to the Amtrak/MARC station.
I usually always park at the Express Parking lot, which is - theoretically, at least - a fair balance between cost and convenience.

Basically you pull into the lot and an attendant directs you to the next available spot. Then the shuttle bus meets you at your car, picks you up, and drops you at the airport. The driver also helps you with your baggage and gives you a slip of paper with the number of your parking spot written on it.
For departing travelers, the Express Parking system is a model of transparency and convenience. But for returning travelers, recent experience has alerted me to some problems in the system.
Last night I was waiting at the designated parking shuttle stop at the airport.
And I waited…and waited…and waited…
Express Parking shuttles were largely absent last night. It took twenty five minutes for the shuttle to arrive – that is, if you don’t count the crowded one that drove by without even acknowledging the passengers flailing to get its attention.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking.  January 2nd was the tail end of a busy holiday travel period. Increased numbers of travelers must therefore translate into longer wait times.
That sounds like a plausible explanation. But facts aren’t there to support it.
First, shuttles ferrying people to the airport’s other parking options were as ubiquitous last night as Express Parking shuttles were scarce. Indeed, for every Express Parking shuttle, I saw about three of the other kind. At one point, two shuttles for the Daily Garage arrived almost simultaneously.
And, I know it isn’t a matter of resources. Every time I pull into the Express Parking lot, I always see a phalanx of shuttles parked in a row, seemingly awaiting direction.
Second, I also traveled in May, September, and October 2011. On each occasion, wait times for Express Parking shuttles were significantly longer than for the other kind.
When the bus finally arrived last night, one of my fellow passengers lit the driver up like a Marlboro Red. I must admit, I felt a dark sense of satisfaction hearing the man give a loud voice to the frustrations I shared, even though the driver was personally not the cause of the problems.
Anyway, I’m giving serious thought to parking at the Daily Garage instead. Maybe it is worth the extra $2 a day to know that a shuttle will be there to meet you in a timely manner.  
Better yet, I hope the Express Parking shuttle service gets its mojo back and is once again able to live up to its name. As things stand now, any time savings Express parkers reap from an early-arriving flight is quickly lost to the shuttle shuffle.
If any of you have had BWI parking shuttle experiences similar to mine, please comment accordingly. The more noise we make about delays in the Express Parking system, the better chance we’ll have of getting these (oxy)morons to fix it.

1 comment:

  1. I've used the Long Term parking exclusively (probably because of cost). I build in 30 minutes for travel between parking lot and check-in; I have never waited longer than 10 minutes for a shuttle (both departure from BWI and arrival to BWI); and the cost is manageable ($8/day). In short, I think maybe you've been picking the wrong lot...