Originally created 06/02/04

Security changes terminal pick-ups



PHILADELPHIA - Bob Boague had time to kill before his daughter's flight arrived, so he eased his pickup onto the shoulder of Route 291 on the outskirts of the Philadelphia airport and waited there, despite the "No Stopping Anytime" sign. Five cars lined up behind him.

Mr. Boague figured waiting by the side of the road was better than paying to put his car in a garage at the airport.

"Golly, with the tolls on the drive in, they've taken enough out of my pocket already," he said.

Tight post-Sept. 11 security and cellular phones have changed the way Americans pick people up at the airport, and some terminals around the country are having trouble adapting.

With curbside parking off-limits at the Philadelphia International Airport since the Sept. 11 attacks, drivers trying to avoid the hassle and cost of pulling into a garage prowl the access roads looking for a place to wait. Often, they stay until they get a cell-phone call from the arriving passenger.

One of the most popular spots is the wide shoulder of Route 291, but police posted "no stopping" signs there when too many people started pulling over.

Some motorists shifted to the breakdown lanes on the ramps from Interstate 95, but police worried about a rising number of accidents are cracking down there, too.

Capt. Dominic Mingacci, the commander of the Philadelphia police department's airport unit, announced a new get-tough policy last week that will include aggressive patrols and a $25 ticket for anyone who stops in a no-stopping zone.

Other airports have tired of playing a similar cat-and-mouse game with motorists and given them an official place to wait.

On April 20, the Baltimore-Washington International Airport opened a 55-space "cell phone lot" where drivers can idle while they wait to be called to the terminal, a few minutes away by car. BWI spokeswoman Holly Ellison said the lot has already helped reduce congestion and illegal parking on the roads that loop through the terminals.

The airport in Birmingham, Ala., opened its first free lot for cell-phone equipped drivers on May 10. Palm Beach International in Florida added a 40-space cell-phone lot in December.

Philadelphia International is willing to consider something similar, said airport spokesman Mark Pesce.