Airport opens ‘Express Exit’

McCarran International Airport has done away with the parking meters in its garage across from the main terminal, where motorists parked for a few quarters as they waited for arriving passengers.

The airport on Tuesday formally introduced its "Express Exit" pay stations for long- and short-term parking garages, including the first-floor parking spaces popular with those waiting to pick up passengers just across the way.

Randall Walker, director of the Clark County Department of Aviation, said one of the reasons the pay stations will replace meters is that many motorists "gamed" the system by finding meters with time remaining or standing by their vehicles without feeding it a quarter.

"There’s no doubt we’ll get some complaints from those who gamed the system," Walker said. "Everyone should pay their fair share."

Under the new program, motorists can pay at one of three locations — as they enter the garage, at walk-up stations near the elevators or at drive-through machines located at exits. Only walk-up stations within the garage accept cash; all machines take debit and credit cards.

The pay schedule tells motorists that it’s a $2 charge for zero to 60 minutes in the short-term garage or $3 for the first hour in the long-term garage. The airport did not post signs that inform motorists that the first 15 minutes are free if they take their ticket to the pay machines at the exit. The pay station inside the garage automatically charges at least $2.

Airport security is quick to shoo off drivers appearing to drive slowly or stop in the passenger pickup area, forcing many to either go around the airport again or pull into the parking garage.

The airport bought the $13 million system hoping to expedite the exit process. Walker said he understands the frustration of returning from a trip, having to wait for luggage and then having to wait in line to pay for parking and get home.

"These frustrations will be a thing of the past," he said. However, motorists will have to get used to taking their parking ticket with them rather than leaving it on the dashboard.

The new parking program was introduced in the economy and remote lots more than a year ago, and Walker said lines exiting those parking areas the Sunday after Thanksgiving, one of the busier days of the year at McCarran, were noticeably shorter than in the past.

McCarran is following trends for parking fees established at other major airports, Walker said. But he acknowledged that there are no immediate plans to follow another trend: adding a cell-phone waiting lot, where motorists meeting passengers can wait until they receive a call, then zip up to passenger pickup.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker@ or 702-387-2904.

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