Work as a radio producer is similar in nature to other jobs: duties, responsibilities, stressors, perks.  One unique perk to the very early morning is the commute.  Mine is among the very few cars on the roads.  Streets are mostly empty.  A peaceful 15-20 minute drive in the dark.  The only traffic hazards are the occasional deer and rabbit.

When I arrive at the Billings City parking garage across from the Doubletree Hotel, the situation changes.  Past the automated gate is a driving test, an obstacle course on automobile handling.

Unyielding concrete pillars hold up the ceiling under the driveway of the next level.  Concrete pylons dictate the path forward.  The concrete braces supporting the next level look so low, there's a slight fear they will rip the roof off the vehicle.

Drivers negotiate a single lane one way, between two rows of diagonally-parked cars.  Each length of lane ends in a turn amongst the cars and stone pillars to climb the next sloping lane gently upward.  In time they find an open parking space and the journey ends.  Later, drivers slowly cruise a similar path down and around to exit the structure.

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Looking at the actual parking spaces divided by painted yellow lines, they are really laid out for passenger cars.  For cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston, even L.A., these probably work great.

What about Billings or any town in Montana?  How about in rural parts?  We have a special creature here called the pickup truck.  Some insist it's a "pickup," others a "truck."  I think the two terms are interchangeable.

A car length fits nicely along the same length as the yellow lines in the parking garage.  Here is my Ford Escape fitting right in.

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

A pickup, especially an extended cab or bed, juts out an extra 12 to 18 inches.  Add on a steel bumper and a towing ball, and it becomes a considerable obstacle.

Now imagine two of these heavy-duty pickups parked opposite each other in spaces meant for cars.  Suddenly there is a really narrow lane to drive through.  I creep my way through these.

Now I'm not blaming the truck owners, the garage architect nor the city.  It's just a fact of life in Montana.  Parking structures are constructed with cars in mind.

Now that I think about it, what do the pickup drivers think of this claustrophobic driving maze?  Are you one?  Please let me know.

Is there a solution given the parking building already in place?  Good question.

Michael and I have the same idea.  Perhaps give the first two levels of the parking garage to the pickups, as a courtesy from the city so the drivers don't have to guide their way up a few stories of garage.  Passenger cars are smaller and more nimble to weave up the levels.

Repaint the lines on these first two stories for parallel parking to widen the driving lane through the middle.  Granted this will lessen the number of spaces available to trucks, but there's not that many pickups that use the garage.

Well, that's my thought on it. Please feel free to share your ideas.  And for the time being, please drive safely and carefully on the streets and parking places.  Mangling a car or pickup just ruins the day.

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