November 28, 2006
By TERESA M. PELHAM, Courant Staff Writer
You're a frantic mom, with a fussy baby in a stroller and a sobbing 3-year-old with blood caked in his hair. He needs stitches. And you need to get to the hospital. You quickly park the car in the hospital's parking garage only to wait with a dozen germy strangers for one of two elevators that seem to have left the solar system.
It's scenes like this - usually followed by a few confused minutes wondering which direction to go - that the folks at Hartford Hospital and Connecticut Children's Medical Center are hoping will no longer occur, once a major elevator expansion project is completed in early 2007. The two-year, $4.2 million undertaking is expected to speed things up drastically in the typically slow process of getting in and out of the 15-year-old parking facility.
With just two aging elevators serving the approximately 6,000 adults and children who use the parking garage each day, hospital officials say the number one customer service complaint they receive is that it takes too long to get from the car to one's destination, be it the main hospital, the attached medical office building at 85 Seymour St., or the children's hospital, which was built years after the parking garage.
The two new elevators, visible from the outside through a new glass enclosure, will be electronically unified with the two existing elevators, giving all four elevators "smart" technology, said Steven Alexandre, assistant director of Hartford Hospital's Real Estate Corporation.
"The elevators will be able to respond to trends in the patterns of daily use," he said. "They'll build up a memory and know, for example, that no one is parking on the eighth floor at 8 o'clock in the morning."
Other pedestrian traffic problems are also expected to improve, as the corridor leading toward the medical office building and the main hospital are being widened, and revolving doors are being replaced with more accessible sliding doors (remember the aforementioned baby stroller?) And the general sense of confusion will likely be lessened, Alexandre said, due to a new exit that will lead directly across the street to the children's hospital.
Because patients and visitors list the slowness of exiting the garage as another top complaint (it took 7 minutes on a recent visit to wind around to the one open cashier) that aspect of the parking experience also will be revamped.
Those parking in the garage will receive a ticket upon arrival and will later walk to a central pay station before returning to their cars. An automated pay-on-foot station will also be available, and a third exit lane will be added.
"It's kind of like Disney," Alexandre said. "If you wait here and then wait there, it doesn't seem like you're waiting as long."
Outside, the two existing curb cuts for handicapped access in front of the busy medical office building will be replaced with a ramped curb spanning the length of the building, and will be able to accommodate eight to 10 vehicles at once. An electronic snow-melt system is being installed underneath the sidewalks, from the new elevator tower to the street.
Alexandre said the project was expected to be completed in January, but early spring is a more reasonable estimate. Once the project is near completion, the two existing elevators will be taken off-line for about eight weeks so the cabs can be refurbished and controllers can be replaced.
The project was designed by Hartford architect Tai Soo Kim Partners, and construction is being completed by CFM Construction in Glastonbury. Daily, 3,600 cars park in the garage's 835 parking spaces, making for high turnover.
Ron Votto, senior sales executive for Cheshire-based McGann Associates, the parking revenue control company that services the garage, described it as one of the busiest parking garages between Boston and New York.
"It's a tight area to work in," he said. "It's a crazy place. What they're doing now will definitely help the situation."
The price of parking will not change, remaining at $1 an hour, or a maximum of $8 a day.
The current construction has yet to trigger complaints, said Lee Monroe, director of public relations for Hartford Hospital.
"People seem to like us having a crossing guard here, even though it's temporary, partly because they can ask directions," she said. "It's a very busy place in terms of how many people come through here every day."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at