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O’Hare upgrade would let you find and pay for parking with your phone

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Updated: June 7, 2012 8:20AM



Drivers using O’Hare Airport’s 25,000 parking spaces might soon be able to use their cell phones to find empty spaces and credit cards to “pay on foot” before they exit, thanks to a technology upgrade in the works.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is seeking proposals for a new “parking access and revenue-control technology” system at O’Hare that would reduce the need for toll booth-style exit lanes.

No longer would motorists have to wait in line to pay attendants during peak travel times. Instead, they would be able to pay before retrieving their vehicles and then insert the paid ticket into a machine as they leave and see the gate lift automatically.

Yet another payment option would allow drivers to “enter, exit and pay through mobile phone apps or other sources of technology outlined by the vendor.”

Whoever wants the contract would be required to “accurately maintain a space-count inventory for each lot and level of the main garage” and offer a “mobile device application that assists customers with finding an available space” on their cell phone or Blackberry.

The winning bidder must also use a “mobile license-plate recognition system” to “capture plate images upon entry and exit and process those images to identify and record vehicle license-plate information.”

That system is to be used to prevent fraud, locate lost vehicles and help city crews identify vehicles belonging to scofflaws parked at O’Hare so the wheel-locking Denver boot can be applied.

Tammy Chase, a spokesperson for the city Department of Aviation, said the current parking technology — installed in 1996 — is “pretty out of date.”

O’Hare has 25,000 spaces, including 9,266 in the main garage. There are three surface lots adjacent to the terminal buildings and three long-term surface lots. Together, they provided 3.4 million “paid exits” in 2010. The 23 entry and 35 exit lanes handle 20,000 transactions each day.

“If you think of how the parking garages operate downtown, at Navy Pier, etc., that’s what the new parking system would look like,” Chase said. “We’d have those machines that allow customers to pay before they exit or allow them to insert a credit card when they arrive and use the same credit card to exit.”

Last fall, City Hall hired a consultant to design a new five-level economy parking structure on Parking Lot F at the southeast corner of Mannheim and Zemke Roads to be shared by rental cars and public parking.

The city is building a new, $393 million rental car campus there, financed by an $8 fee for renting a car at O’Hare.



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