As SFO’s ‘cell phone wait lot’ opens, circling expected to abate

For most, picking up a friend or family member at the airport has become a ritual of circling, cutting across lanes and giving other drivers “the wave” as they wait for the cell phone to ring.

But “cell phone wait lots” have popped up to provide safe haven for drivers not looking to pay for short-term parking or catch heat from security officers asking them to move along as they pull through the terminal.

San Francisco’s award-winning airport has finally joined its Bay Area competitors by providing such a lot for drivers in an effort to ease congestion and improve traffic flow around its terminals.

The waiting area, one exit north of the airport off of San Bruno Avenue, opened this week and is roughly two miles away from the main terminals.

Formerly an employee parking lot, the waiting area has 68 parking spaces just off San Bruno Avenue by the long-term parking area. San Jose International Airport and Oakland International Airport already have wait lots, and travelers to San Francisco’s airport seemed to welcome the new addition, but worried about its location.

There are signs on San Bruno Avenue for the new lot, and the airport will place signs by the terminals within the next few weeks, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. The airport is also working with Caltrans to put up signs on U.S. Highway 101.

Steve Reimers, a San Francisco cab driver for 35 years and resident for 57 years, caught some shut-eye Wednesday in the newly christened lot while waiting for his father-in-law to call from the baggage claim.

Reimers said the wait lot was a good idea because traffic going to the terminals can sometimes back up all the wayto the overpasses.

“The cars are moving around, in and out. It really slows down the traffic,” Reimers said. The location of the wait lot, somewhat separated from the terminals, could pose a problem for some because “there’s quite a maze of exits and entrances,” he added.

As has been the practice for at least 16 years, McCarron said, there can only be active loading and unloading area along airport curbs because of both airport and Transportation Security Administration regulations.

Without the space for the cell phone wait lot, recent relocation and redesigning of long-term and employee lots cleared up room to provide the service that customers had mentioned to the airport in surveys, McCarron said.

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