The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How I lost an hour of my life because of incompetence

I go to Whole Foods Market twice a week or more, almost always the Lincoln Park, Chicago store. Even when they have lots of customers, they have plenty of space and plenty of parking, so I didn't worry about ducking out of my house this afternoon to pick up lunch and dog food.

Here's the result. Don't let the international units confuse you; that's an hour and 13 minutes to go about 4 miles:

Here's the situation when I arrived, which looked remarkably like the situation when I left:

Here's the store layout from Google Earth; the red arrow points to the south exit ramp (click for full size):

Now that you have the visuals, here's the note I just dashed off to Whole Foods Customer Service:

Your response to a traffic surge this afternoon made a bad situation worse, and created a safety hazard even as it inconvenienced dozens of customers.

In short, dozens of cars were trapped on the third floor of your parking structure for more than an hour because your security team were unable or unwilling to take the simple, necessary actions to alleviate the problem.

I arrived at the store around 12:40 this afternoon. Because it appeared busy on the second floor parking area, I headed straight up to the third. Even before going up the ramp, however, I noticed cars having difficulty coming down the ramp because of snow. It was difficult for cars coming down the ramp to negotiate the tight turn, and they were slipping into the other lane. That, while dangerous and creating unknown liability for the store, wasn't the worst part, as I discovered when I finally got to the third floor and got stuck in a total gridlock.

No one could leave the third floor parking area. It took me twenty minutes to get into a parking space because of this. But that's still not the worst part. No, twenty minutes later, when I tried to leave, cars were still unable to leave the third floor, even though the parking area was nearly empty, and even though a CSR had told me that you had actually stopped people coming up the ramp.

When I finally got onto the ramp and arrived at the second floor, I discovered three security guards directing one car at a time up, down, or across. This was actually no help as drivers are perfectly capable of zippering together as long as the cars are moving. No, it wasn't until I got to the Kingsbury exit that it became obvious how the situation had become so grim. With no one directing traffic out of the parking structure at Kingsbury, cars could only exit singly and about every 30-40 seconds.

It's irrelevant that you may have needed Chicago Police permission to direct traffic onto Kingsbury. Given the traffic load and safety hazard it posed, you would have had no trouble getting permission--if it were even required. Regardless, anyone who observed and thought about the traffic situation would have seen this obvious bottleneck.

Here are a number of concrete suggestions to prevent this kind of unsafe and inconvenient situation from recurring in times of high traffic load:

  1. Station a security guard at the south exit onto Kingsbury to halt southbound traffic on Kingsbury while directing exiting traffic south on the same street. This will avoid the bottlenecks at Weed and North, alleviate pressure on the exit ramp, and give the security team better visibility of the entire traffic situation.
  2. Station a security guard at the top of the third floor ramp to keep all traffic on the third floor moving only clockwise. Cars should move only along the outside (south and east) walls before splitting into two streams by the third-floor main entrance near the air conditioning units. Cars that can't find parking moving south in the second and third rows can go around the outside again. But the security guard will have visibility into the parking situation and can let others know when the third floor is full.
  3. Station a security guard at the second-floor junction of the third-floor ramp to keep cars moving clockwise on that level, too. When the Kingsbury guard allows a stream of traffic to leave, the second-floor guard should halt all traffic except those cars spiraling down to Kingsbury from the third floor.

This is not rocket science. It just requires that someone observe, coordinate, and above all _think_ about the problem. The security team today completely failed, costing me and dozens of other customers more than an hour of time.

I will post any response they send.

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