Commentary: Training Parkers At Train Parking Lot

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 12, 2007

For the pick up and drop off crowd, the city’s new parking system at the downtown train station is perfect. There are no gates, no tickets to take, no pay machines.

But I needed to park overnight. I arrived a half hour early - plenty of time I thought to park, buy my ticket and board the 6:40 to San Francisco. I didn’t count on being tripped up at the parking pay machine.

The system is counter intuitive. You pay when you enter the lot, not when you leave. That means you have to remember your stall number, estimate how long you will stay, punch that all in and then deposit your money or swipe your card. The machine declined my card twice. The clock was ticking. My train was waiting. I fumbled for cash, but it wouldn’t take that either.

Then a read the sign taped to the bottom of the machine. I had parked in an ineligible spot, a stall that was set to be re-striped the next morning. By the time I moved my car and punched new information into the machine  - my train had left.

The current station parking system is better than the famously dysfunctional one it replaced. But still, it could use better signage, better instructions on the machines, and maybe a human attendant to help befuddled first time users like me.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.