Already faced with longer lines at airline check-in counters and security checkpoints, travelers to O'Hare International Airport have also been dealing with confusing and more expensive parking arrangements.
City aviation officials said the 3,118-space economy parking Lot F, on Mannheim Road, was shut down shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and will remain temporarily closed. But the city failed to post signs alerting drivers to hunt for parking elsewhere until Tuesday.
Motorists are now being directed to economy Lot E, a 6,916-space lot off Bessie Coleman Drive. If that lot is full, Standard Parking Corp., which operates all airport parking, will now issue vouchers so drivers can park in the main parking garage for no additional charge, O'Hare spokeswoman Monique Bond said.
The full-day parking charge in Lot E is $13--$4 more than in lot F, but well below the $23 for the 12,030-space main garage.
Airport officials said Lot F was closed primarily to consolidate the parking operation to enhance safety and security. They said the decline in air travel since the terrorist attacks also made the move a good business decision.
"For security reasons, we wanted to impose complete control over open spaces," Bond said. "As demand rebounds, we will have to look at other ways to handle all those cars."
But many airport patrons who count on the economy lots, especially people who hadn't been to O'Hare since the attacks, expressed confusion over the unannounced change.
"Parking at the airport is now very iffy, since Lot E is nearly always full," said Geoffrey Kansas, a professor at Northwestern University Medical School who stumbled on the change Saturday at the beginning of a trip to San Francisco.
Kansas said he found one of the last open spaces in Lot E, saving him from being forced into the more expensive main garage. City officials said the vouchers will now ease the financial strain if Lot E is full.
On another security front, the Chicago Department of Aviation said Tuesday that 9,798 identification badges issued to employees at O'Hare and 2,068 badges issued to workers at Midway Airport have been deactivated to prevent unauthorized individuals from getting access to aircraft and other secure areas.
Most of the deactivated badges belong to former employees, but badges were also taken away from current employees who didn't go through a recertification process.
The Federal Aviation Administration had extended an Oct. 3 deadline to Tuesday for the nation's largest airports to revalidate the security badges of people working for the airports, the airlines and contractors.
About 39,890 people at O'Hare and 7,001 at Midway had valid badges before the audit was conducted. The badges that were not renewed belonged to people who have been fired or furloughed or who didn't go through the revalidation process, Bond said.
She said workers who missed the deadline must undergo new criminal background checks before new ID badges are issued.