Parking garage clearance

Across street from my apartment is the Pacific Science Center. From my apartment I can clearly see the entrance to their parking garage including the Clearance 6’6″ boom hanging from the chains — one presumes — at 6’6″ above the entrance.1

After watching numerous vehicles enter the garage over the past 6 months, I’ve decided these booms are usability failures. For those of you who drive sedans or other small vehicles, as I do, you probably haven’t ever stopped to think about these things. Really – what small car isn’t going to fit into a modern parking structure? It’s the SUVs that are the source of all the amusement. Those of you who’ve ever driven an SUV (either because you own one, driven a family member’s or been given one as a rental car) let me ask you: do you have any idea how tall the beast is? Yeah, didn’t think so, I sure don’t.

It usually goes something like this: someone pulls up in a large vehicle, sees the sign from the street and pauses. You can almost hear the wheels turning and them going “crap, how tall is my SUV?” and then without fail, they pull forward and it’s clear that it isn’t because they know how tall it is. Those that have said “fuck it” pull forward without hesitation under the boom. Some of them make it and some of them don’t.

Those that have doubts pull slowly forward, roll down their window, and crane their necks to see if their vehicle will make it under. Most of the cars with a passenger have the passenger get out and see if they make it under or not. At this point some realize they can’t get in and try to negotiate with the cars behind them (that are invariably waiting to get into the garage themselves) to back up and let them out. Some think “it’s only scraping a little bit, I’ll risk it” and pull forward with the boom dragging across the top of their vehicle. The most amusing ones are those that have a foot or more of clearance.

And really, lets step back and evaluate the usability nightmare of this situation. Whose idea was it to wait until the entrance bottleneck to tell people if they will or won’t be able to make it into the garage, and doing so with a gauge that only a person who isn’t driving can clearly see? At a minimum, they should have an IR sensor at the desired height with a visual indicator at driver level letting them know if they’ll make it or not. Ideally this would be at a point before they’re creating a bottleneck at the entrance, but that’s clearly not possible given the limited space available at the Pacific Science Center.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to chuckle heartily at the show for which I have a front-row seat.

1 Assuming that it really is at 6’6″. I do wonder how much variability there is between what is written on the boom, the height that the boom is hanging at, and how accurate it is given that it’s hanging what appears to be level above an uneven surface.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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