Friday, September 15, 2017

Charlotte Douglas International Airport's *%*$@#! Cell Phone Lot!

Friday is the first day and of Fall and the holiday travel season will soon be upon us.

Soon family and friends will be on their way to the Carolinas and looking forward to visiting you and the Queen City, so why are you stressing?

The airport you say? The Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CDIA)? Really?

Ahhh, yes its a nightmare all right. Traffic, ambiguous signage, rent-a-cop traffic directors, crazy never ending construction projects, poor lighting around the terminal, bottle necks and traffic grid lock, all combining to make any trip to the airport unbearable.

So who is the idiot who thought all of this up? Meet Brent Cagle.

Cagle is the man with his head in the sand, "there's no problem" he says, "we are a growing operation, a big airport" he boasts in over the top Donald Trump fashion.

CDIA is ranked 10th nationally, Cagle will argue that its really 5th based on departures and arrivals divided by number of air-cargo flights times the square root of Jennifer Roberts IQ. But for the sake of simple we will use the Wikipedia numbers which are here.

Cagle was given the task of moving CDIA forward 2 years ago, yet he is still shackled with the ghost of Jerry Orr. You see CDIA even long after Orr's departure is still a fiefdom, and still answers to no one.

Most of us Charlotte taxpayers are ok with the airport, even though we endure low flying landing gear dragging jet aircraft over our homes thanks to a program called NexGen, higher fares than nearby cities because American Airlines controls 95 percent of the daily flights and traffic, insane endless airport traffic.

But CDIA could make it easier on us to pick-up family. Beyond the poor signage and poor lighting, the airport cell phone lot is a nightmare, apparently designed by a blind monkey on a 3 day weekend bender.

First the location, while adequate, is not well marked and shares an entrance with a long term lot that is often backed up with traffic. To get to the lot traffic coming off of Billy Graham must cross four lanes of to get in the turn lane for the cell phone lot. Often doing so will earn you a lot of friendly one digit hellos.

The entrance being not well marked often makes for interesting traffic flow.

This guy missed the tiny sign and pavement markings.

So he made up his own driving rules.

Once in the lot, the area is it is so "tight" cars routinely hit the curbs while trying to navigate the narrow rows. OK routinely is a misstatement, make that continuously like 100 percent of the time. On each visit to the lot in the last 3 months I've watched car after car ride up and over the curbs sometimes the same car hitting the same curb more than once.

Seems that blind monkeys only drive Prius hybrids, because unless you drive a Mini Cooper sized car you'll hit at least one of the curbs in the lot. Everyone of these rim busters shows signs of concrete failure, and grass worn bare by tires riding up and over the curbs.

This is the first turn and the curb gets a lot of abuse.

Exit to the right or go around again. The exit curb gets it always.

This turn has a little more room but still grinds away at tires.

Not only does this curb get a workout but Ford 150's hit both sides and the tree branches.

It might not help that one quarter of the lot has been repurposed for a cell phone tower. That is the green fence in the background of the photo above.

And if you think trying to navigated the tight lot is bad during the day just try to use the lot on a rainy night, when the lighting is so poor the curbs become invisible.  I'm surprised they don't have more crime in the lot than they already do with the limited lighting.

Now that you are waiting its pretty tough to keep an eye on whose around you. You are a sitting duck for car jackers and muggers.

When that call finally comes from Aunt Doris that she's claimed her luggage and is ready for pickup, you have to drive against the flow of traffic just to exit the lot or circle around the lot once more hitting more curbs.

The exit is to the right but the traffic flow is in the other direction

The long road that parallels the main road to the terminal.

During off peak hours most drivers opt for drive thru.

Now that you've escaped the lot, you're given another set of challenges. Rather than exit the lot back on to the road to the terminal you have to drive down a side road, navigate a traffic circle, dodge construction dump trucks at a four way stop sign, turn left onto a very short road and try to cut into a long cue of backed up traffic, counting on Charlotte's much diminished Southern Hospitality to let you into the scramble for a limited number of curbside spaces. This will also earn you the up raised finger the international sign for hello.

And if you think that's bad try it at night, there is no lighting along the road, no signage just a whole lot of dark.

Admittedly its not as bad as New York's Kennedy airport cell phone lot traffic scheme below, which was clearly designed by a "committee" of blind monkeys.

The purpose of a cell phone lot is to eliminate "circulating" traffic that rolls around the airport waiting for arriving passengers to collect baggage and exit the terminal.

Most cellphone lots came into play shortly after 9/11 due to concerns over parked vehicles at the front of the terminal. CDIA's cell phone lot has been relocated several times depending on the newest, greatest and latest construction project. But the most recent incarnation is by far the worst.

CDIA management knows the cellphone lot is inadequate and while they won't admit it publically they will allow you to use the parking deck free of charge for 30 mins. Of course you can't get to the terminal without using the elevators and navigating a maze of pedestrian barriers and traffic cones.

So most of us just circle the terminal. Those who don't care to drive all the way out to Wilkinson Blvd and back use the "authorized vehicles only" road just to the north of the daily parking lot.

Those who don't use the loop, or cut through method often simply park where they can on the side of the road.

On any given day or night you'll find cars parked along Wilkinson Blvd, at the end of runway 36/18 C, or in the traffic circle in front of the tank storage facility.

The basic requirements of a cellphone lot, for some reason are lost on CDIA's Brent Cagle and management. So maybe if I spell it out someone will take notice.


CDIA's cellphone lot is not convenient, while safe for the most part, except at night when its poor lighting comes into play, its hardly efficient, but it is free. So lets give it a C- for the basics.

The ideal design would be close to the terminal. One-way traffic with pull through parking spaces is a must for this tight "holding" area. Requiring drivers to back up into a high traffic area is just begging for trouble.

I'm not asking for much here, but CDIA could've gone Denver's route.

Denver International the nation's sixth busiest airport, has a state of the art cell phone lot. The lot has a fast food court, restrooms, picnic tables, a play ground, a gas station, a car wash, views of landing and departing aircraft, free Wi-Fi, covered parking for snowy days and the list goes on and on.

Admittedly Denver has space a lot of land to play with, and with 28 million passenger boardings a large revenue stream to work with. It doesn't hurt that Denver has a state transportation department that is also very pro active.

So then how is it that the nation's 44th ranked airport, the tiny low volume Southwest Florida Regional in Fort Myers has a five star cellphone lot?

Located at the main entrance with easy in/out
Super easy in and out, a 7-Eleven, gas, car wash, sweeping views, fantastic lighting, free Wi-Fi and a perfect location at an airport that had just slightly over 4 million passenger boardings in 2016.

So there you have it Charlotte's sad excuse for a cell phone lot that lacks in so many regards being out done by a simple design in Fort Myers that not only serves the purpose of holding area but also is a revenue source for the airport and people actually enjoy using.

Cedar Posts reached out to Brent Cagle about the cell phone and via phone and email, several times while putting this blog post together, nothing but crickets. CP has also hinted at the issues regarding the lot via twitter often during the past 3 months crickets there as well.

Shouldn't a world class city with a world class airport have a world class cell phone lot?

Any suggestions? Thoughts?


Anonymous said...

If the covers were taken off the operations at the airport, there wouldn't be enough Federal jail space to hold all the criminals.
Ask Cagle why the airport decided to use 75 yr old lighting technology vs today's LED,in the enormous parking garages...Well one of the board members had a vested interest in using Induction despite better performance and less costs on today's LED. Only an idiot, or someone on the take would specify such ancient technology when less costly systems are easily available.

Anonymous said...

Funny you pointed that out because my daughter asked the same question a few nights ago. She pointed out the lack of LED lights in use at CDIA and how dark the parking decks are at night.

Anonymous said...

The airport is on auto-pilot, just like the rest of this city. We have totally incompetant people running the show. From the Mayor, to the City Council, to the decision making departments of our local government, to Cagle and beyond. We can only go on so long before everything implodes !!! I see Detroit in our future !

Anonymous said...

Be nice to have a bathroom in the lot too

Anonymous said...

Yep, blind is leading the blind. We have no process to select the new Assistant City Manager and the CDOT Director to replace the new ACM. While the City is spending $60K or more on a search for a Fire Chief when they will likely simply remove "Interim" from Chief Key after the fall elections.

Anonymous said...

11:35, you should take this example to explain corruption, graft, cronyism, and the Charlotte way of doing things. The FBI recently busted a 5 million dollar lighting scam at the Miami airport ...Cagle laughs at such small scope in his backyard.

Anonymous said...

I work at CLT, and I'm not positive but my understanding was that the current cell phone lot is a temporary measure. They moved it to build the A concourse expansion and are building a new one after the long term lot expansion is finished. Everything got shifted like musical chairs, and they did a horrible job with their interim lot.

Anonymous said...

CP is right the airport is a nightmare. Impossible to pick up anyone. Limo drivers have to park on the 5th floor of the parking deck for pickups they aren't allowed to pick-up curb side. The rent-a-cops are all so high on crack they can't walk much less direct traffic. And the CMPD guys just sit around and shoot the shit. Talk about low stress job.

Anonymous said...

So why don't you just name the board member and name the company that he or she is probably making money by a possibly corrupt lighting purchase or contract and when this may have happened and for what building or buildings instead of vague assertions? Instead of making these general BS remarks? Just say what you mean. A board member at the airport can't get you fired for telling the truth if it is the truth. And if they have some connection where they get you fired,sue. Go to the Press. Stand on the corner with a sign. Do what you have to do. Have a backbone. Tell the truth. Stop being such spineless weasels hiding in the dark telling Little riddles like Junior High gossips. Take responsibility for yourselves and the ethics of the people around you as well. I have no sympathy for you when you know things that are illegal and or unethical and or corrupt dangerous harmful potentially harmful or even just causing a problem and sit there with your thumb up your butt complaining like babies without taking proper action to the harm of other people when you are in a position to do something to correct it. And particularly for the police officers who read this blog you have an oath and duty to correct it. You expect special treatment and special forgiveness when you do something horrible because of your alleged elevated position but you take no responsibility to do anything when you are not in any sort of difficult situation. You take no responsibility for your elevated position.
Please save me comments from the good officers who I thank who do the right thing. These comments are for the nasty whiny little babies who know exactly what needs to happen and do nothing but complain about all of the illegal conduct they know about and will not say a word. You have a duty. We all do.

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