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November 05, 2013

DFW Airport staff says parking system problems are getting better

Parking demolotion
Demolition of old entry plazas at DFW Airport began on Monday. Photo courtesy of DFW Airport.
His first week on the job, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport chief executive Sean Donohue had to deal with traffic jams and incorrect parking charges that have plagued the airport’s new automated parking system.

"We have to get this right for the holidays," Donohue said at his first airport board committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Airport officials acknowledged the rollout of the new system, which launched two months ago, has not been smooth. But they told the airport board that software fixes and server reconfigurations that have been made helped mitigate problems with a system that has failed to read toll tags correctly.

"I’m not saying we’ve solved all the problems but I’m saying it’s gotten better and the average wait times have gotten better," chief financial officer Chris Poinsatte told the airport board. "We have turned a corner."

Since the fixes were installed on October 26, the longest wait times at the airport’s entrance and exit plazas has been three minutes or lower, Poinsatte said. The airport is also making progress in demolishing the old entry plazas that currently obstruct the electronic signs of new plazas that tell drivers which lanes are open.

Poinsatte said the demolition on a majority of old booths will be torn down by Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel periods for the airport. The remaining columns, road construction and striping of entry lanes will be completed by Christmas. When demolition is complete, customers will have access to 60 lanes instead of the 42 lanes that are currently open.

The airport’s customer call center continues to receive at least 100 calls a day related to parking problems, Poinsatte said. Calls temporarily spiked at the call center the last week of October when the system failed to read toll tags at its north entrance which caused an hourlong traffic jam.

When the system first launched in September, it was incorrectly charging drivers because the readers in the new system didn’t recognize when a car with a toll tag left the airport. It has also overcharged valet customers who had already paid the valet workers because a reader did not register the car’s parking fee had already been paid.

-Andrea Ahles

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