What exactly is a rest area kiosk?
Installing and maintaining Oregon highway business signs are only a fraction of what OTE’s Field Operations Division has a hand in. OTE maintains and stocks kiosk information centers within 12 highway rest areas across the state. Motorists use kiosks both night and day, looking for unique places to eat, sleep, or shop.
Over the last year, OTE noted significant deterioration to almost every kiosk—many had been constructed in the 1970s. Rotting wood, leaky roofs and peeling paint from exposure to the elements are inherent in any structure, but a kiosk without doors is even harder to maintain.
Dedicated employees innovate
John Hafner is a 17-year veteran on the Oregon Travel Experience highway business sign team. He first became acquainted with rest area kiosks while working on Baldock’s rest area maintenance crew for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).
“When I was with ODOT, I had no idea who OTE was,” says Hafner. “I just knew I needed to figure out a way to clean up the Plexiglas covers over the kiosk display panels. They were scratched up so bad you could hardly see the posters underneath them.” John figured out he could buff the panels back to their original shine, saving OTE the expense of replacing them.
When Hafner accepted a position with OTE in 1995, he spent two years without a day off to catch up on the overwhelming back-load of highway business sign installations. As Hafner grabbed the reigns, information kiosk maintenance began in earnest.
“We (OTE) finally became owners of the kiosk brochure program and expanded our field operations to include highway signs. As business grew, two people just couldn’t handle the entire state,” Hafner said. “We hired an additional employee to help us organize our sign storage sheds out at the ODOT sign shop and help with installations, and from there on we just got busier and busier!”
Brochure placement: a vital link to community businesses
When OTE acquired supervision of nine rest areas at the end of 2009, OTE field operations knew it could no longer function without a dedicated kiosk manager to provide routine maintenance and stock brochures for local businesses.
“That’s when we got Luke Arendt on board,” said Hafner. “Our brochure placement service is a full-time job, especially when you have hundreds of travelers a day at each rest area. High traffic areas like Baldock rest area south of Portland and the one out at Multnomah Falls serve thousands of visitors in a week.”
In 2011 Arendt began to replace rotting timber and provide much needed maintenance to OTE’s kiosks.
“The kiosk at Lincoln City was especially bad,” Arendt said. “I had to replace or repair pitted Plexiglas and old and faded wood paneling and trim. The weather out at the coast is pretty rough on that structure. And we still have a long list of repairs that need to be made, especially in Ontario and Baldock.”
Envisioning information centers of the future
OTE’s Sales Director Harry Falisec has been working with Hafner and Arendt on creative ways to update the aging structures. Since budgets are tight everywhere, kiosk rehabilitation has become a group effort.
“We really need to bring them up to date,” said Falisec. “Thousands of motorists use these every day. Basically, the kiosk is an information center where local businesses have an opportunity to shine. The kiosks help support local economic development and encourage visitors to discover something new about the areas they pass through.”
Falisec envisions the information kiosk of the 21st century.
“I want to see an LED reader board right across the front, announcing everything from traffic alerts to winery tours. I would like to see new ways for visitors to find the information they’re looking for, including touch screens and 24-hour a day ‘concierge’ services. I think we could ultimately make these highway information centers into showplaces of everything Oregon has to offer.”
While Falisec works on a solid kiosk restructure plan with the Travel Information Council (OTE’s governing body) and local rest area business coalitions, he and the OTE Field Operations team will begin minor updates to the north Baldock kiosk in 2012.
“We’ll replace rotting fascias, treat the roof and apply our agency name to the north Baldock kiosk,” Falisec said. “While my vision for the modern kiosk includes a lot of wonderful ideas, we need to take it one step at a time. I hope we can use Baldock as a model and work with our coalitions and local businesses to find out what their vision for the future holds and how we can help implement those ideas.”
If you enjoyed this blog post, share it via Twitter.Tweet