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  • Renée C. Byer /

    A passenger uses a kiosk near Volaris Airlines inside Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport. The expanded terminal, though aesthetically pleasing, so far has failed to boost sagging passenger numbers at the airport.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    A few passengers are dwarfed by the rabbit in Terminal B at the Sacramento International Airport on Thursday.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    A passenger at right makes his way down the escalator in Terminal B of the Sacramento International Airport on Thursday.

  • Tony Bizjak

Back-seat Driver: At Sacramento airport: fancy new terminal, but fewer fliers

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 - 10:09 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 - 6:29 am

Sacramento International Airport’s billion-dollar terminal has been a lightning rod for opinions. Some love it for its elegance. Others say it’s overkill. And some are just annoyed by that short-distance people-mover shuttle. One thing is definite – not enough passengers are showing up for the airport to pay the bill. The latest numbers, published last week, show passenger levels were down yet again in November, 4 percent lower than the previous year, continuing a several-year slide.

The county Board of Supervisors, which approved the expansion, has hired a new airport director to turn the finances around. That man, John Wheat, says he will cut airport spending 15 percent over the next 18 months.

Talking with The Bee just before the November numbers came out, Wheat said he hopes budget efficiency does the trick, but, he added, “Unfortunately, we have not quite bottomed out yet.”

Broken parking meters

If you see an out-of-service parking meter, can you park at it? Yes.

That wasn’t the case in some cities until a new state law this month ordered all cities to allow people to park at broken meters. Some cities had banned it, saying they didn’t want to encourage scofflaws to purposely jam or break meters to avoid paying.

Sacramento was among the cities that allowed people to park at jammed meters. But local city officials warn motorists about one misconception: Even if a meter is broken, you will still be ticketed if you park there longer than the meter’s time limit.

More of Sacramento’s old meters have been breaking down lately. That is about to change. The city will be installing its first set of “smart meters” this month in front of City Hall. Those meters, which take credit cards and most coins, can signal parking officials right away if they get jammed or otherwise stop working, allowing maintenance crews to get them fixed immediately.

Uber-high prices

Here’s an early warning to people who plan to join the crowds out on the town imbibing on St. Valentine’s or St. Patrick’s Day. If a lot of you end up calling the Uber rideshare company for a lift home, you may be surprised by suddenly higher fares.

Uber is one of those new ride services that you can connect with by using a smartphone app. When they first came to Sacramento last year, Uber officials let it be known they engage in “dynamic” or “surge” pricing. That means that if the demand for rides spikes, so will the prices. It happened New Year’s Eve, we hear. One person checked the price a bit before midnight and discovered prices were $5 per mile. A half-hour after midnight, she checked again. Fares had jumped above $10 a mile.

Uber spokesman Andrew Noyes explained it this way: “We do surge pricing to guarantee the reliability on the system. When demand spikes, it encourages more drivers to come on the system and pick up passengers. It doesn’t happen a lot in cities like Sacramento.”

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Read more articles by TONY BIZJAK

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