Airport arrivals could be a revenue bonanza for Chicago

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Arlene Jones

Let's say your friend or relative flies into town and wants you to pick them up from O'Hare Airport. The flight is supposed to arrive at noon, so you head out there. You haven't seen that person in years. You drive out to the airport and begin to weigh your options. The flight arrived on time, but the luggage is taking forever to make it to the baggage claim area. You could park at the free cellphone lot which is a 7-8 minute drive away - you know, the lot designed for folks to wait in until they get the call that the person has gotten all their luggage and is ready to be picked up.

Or you can do what a lot of people do, circle the airport until you see your cousin.

Those in the know tend to park on the drive that goes in a circle at the airport. If the person they are picking up isn't ready, then they'll park along the curb until the traffic person comes along and makes them move. Then like the Indians circling the wagon train, they begin the slow drive around to re-enter the airport pickup area. If you know about that road, it sends you from Terminal 3 back to Terminal 1 again. Then you begin the same process all over again.

Or you can park in the garage directly across the street from the terminals. It's called meet-and-greet parking. If you can get it done within one hour, how much do you think it costs to park there? Twenty dollars? Fifteen dollars? Ten dollars? Five dollars or two dollars? Pick your answer now. I'll give you a hint. It now costs over $5 an hour to park downtown if you need to take care of something. So what do you think the people who come in from Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and the surrounding suburbs are asked to pay for the privilege of parking at the airport and being able to stroll across the street to meet and greet their passengers?

Before I give you the answer, I want you to know a few other things about parking at the garage. It has both underground and above-ground passageways so that both you and the passenger with tons of luggage don't have to risk getting hit by the motorists who often drive like maniacs in the roadway at O'Hare. The other benefit of "meet and greet" parking is that you can then meet your friend or relative at the baggage claim area, hug and kiss them there and then walk them and their luggage safely and directly to your car.

No more circling the airport and trying to park out there illegally while waiting for them to make it to the curb. No more driving 5 mph trying to find them while not paying any attention to the cars, trucks, buses, vans, cabs and limos all trying to pick up passengers too.

OK, time to reveal the cost. If you chose anything other than $2, you're wrong. That's right. For the privilege of "meeting and greeting" someone at O'Hare, the cost is a mere two dollars! So how come people don't just park in that lot and stroll across the street to meet and greet their family members? Because there isn't really any incentive to make them park in the garage. So they park along the curb at the terminals or even more dangerously, they park along the roadway leading to the airport. Or they circle and circle driving as slowly as possible in anticipation that the person they are picking up will finally make it out of the airport and be at the curb.

So I have a suggestion for our mayor and his band of 50 cheerleaders: Since all of us average citizens are under attack for driving around this city, trying to get there at a reasonable speed while avoiding all the red-light cameras and, if they pass it, the soon-to-be-installed speed cameras, then I would like to see the city enforce a $500 fine for anyone who parks at O'Hare airport using the curb instead of the too-cheap-to-be-believed parking lot.

On an average day, the city could make tons of money ticketing those drivers who are too lazy and trifling to use the garage. We could also save money by not having the employees from the Chicago Department of Aviation place those silly orange cones in the roadway every morning to prevent those drivers who try to park in the circling roadway.

The city needs revenue and it is time they begin to look further than just the pocketbooks of us poor suckers who live here.

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