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Cramer vs. the Airport: Cramer, 1; Airport, Zip

Stan Cramer of Cramer Airport Parking, reports that the state of Pennsylvania is suing the owner of Harrisburg International Airport (HIA) to prevent it from taking his business by eminent domain.
Here's the gist of the story, from a news release from the state attorney general's office:
Atty. Gen. Tom Corbett filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court to stop the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority (SARAA) from acquiring, through eminent domain, nearby property that is owned by Cramer Airport Parking, HIA's only customer-parking competitor. The lawsuit seeks to preserve competitive pricing and services for parking at central Pennsylvania's largest airport facility.
The complaint states that the authority's action in acquiring a competing business would create a monopoly and likely force customers to pay higher prices and receive fewer services by eliminating customer choice.
The Cramer land does not abut the authority's property; instead, it is surrounded by property owned by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, plus other commercial and residential lots.
According to the complaint, Cramer Airport Parking offers 1,000 spaces less than one mile from HIA and can expand to 2,000 spaces. The current rates are $5 per day, $28 per week, and a reduced fee if the customer uses available discount coupons. HIA offers 2,474 parking spaces in its parking garage at the airport. The rates are $1 per hour for the first two hours and $2 for each additional hour up to a daily maximum of $14. Garage parking is next to the HIA terminal. In addition, SARAA offers 3,100 parking spaces at its economy long-term parking lot, known as SmartPark, less than a mile from the terminal by shuttle. Customers using that facility pay $5 per day and $30 per week.
SARAA has the potential to expand its facility by 9,000 parking spaces using space in its daily lots, the "SmartPark" and property in front of Penn State's Middletown Campus. The attorney general's complaint states that HIA parking lots operate well below capacity. "In reality, the authority has no actual plans for the site," Corbett said. "However, the airport, in taking over its parking competitor, is acting outside its authority under Pennsylvania law and therefore has no immunity."

Here's what Parking Blog wrote a couple of months ago:
I first met Stan Cramer a couple of years ago when PT did an article on his off-airport parking operation in Harrisburg, PA. He's a colorful and innovative guy. A great representative of our industry.
He is now in a fight for his business life with the adjacent airport. His facility is on property he owns that the airport wants. They have made him an offer, and he has refused to sell at that price.
Stan has the prime piece of property right next to the airport entry. He runs a good parking operation and takes a lot of parking business away from the airport. He has built a good legacy and comfortable life by making the right decisions along the way.
Now the airport wants to use eminent domain to take away his property and most likely his business for what seems to me to be a paltry amount. He is willing to sell, but at a price that makes business sense.
I have been suspect of eminent domain's use in many such situations. The concept of "public good" can be stretched to fit most any activity a politician or airport manager wants it to.

Pittsburgh Lot Workers Strike;
City Council Supports Them
Some 230 parking lot workers went on strike in Pittsburgh and turned a bargaining table dispute into a political battle. Lot operators said they would keep facilities open by using management, clerical and temporary employees.
Teamsters Local 926, which represents the workers, won a resolution from Pittsburgh City Council accusing operators of "union busting" and urging prompt compromise.
Workers walked off lots owned or managed by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, Alco Parking, Main Lot, Grant Oliver Parking and E&S Transportation. The lots have some 40,000 spaces, including the large majority of Downtown, North Shore and Pittsburgh International Airport parking.
Alco had hired replacements for $12 a hour. "There may have been hiccups while we were training and putting people in," said Alco President Merrill Stabile. But picketing was not disruptive, parkers were not turned away and lot volumes were normal, Stabile said.
Ten lot workers and several labor leaders came before the council, complaining that lot operators would not budge in negotiations. Stabile said he'd return to the table at any time but wouldn't "let a politician tell me I don't pay my workers enough when they've imposed a 50% parking tax." The city has the nation's highest parking tax.

Parking Blog comments:
The parking attendants union has gone out on strike in Pittsburgh. They want more money, and more flexibility in their work hours, and a guaranteed job. Yep -- if an operator loses a location to another operator, they want their jobs guaranteed across the two companies.
The operators, including the Pittsburgh Parking Authority and Alco, the largest private operator, seem to think they should be able to ask a cashier to answer phones in the office or maybe, dare I say it, sweep a floor. They think they should be able to charge the folks 10% of the cost of their health insurance. Outrageous.
This is going to get political fast, since the head of the PPA is the mayor's brother and the owner of Alco is looking for approval on some gaming operations. However, it will be fun to watch. In the meantime, the lots are full, and the operators are running with management crews and training temps.
From what I know about running garages, that shouldn't take too long. I wonder if the union realized that running a cashier terminal isn't the same as running, say, the control board at a nuclear power plant.

Town Removes Meters, Institutes Parking Zones
The new downtown parking plan in Newark, OH, continues to change based on concerns from business owners, but enforcement is just around the corner.
All the meters will be removed, and parking zones of two, three and 11 hours will be in place. The time limits are for the day, even if a motorist leaves and returns to another space in the same zone. The two- and three-hour zones will be enforced from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The latest revision will likely be to the cost of parking passes for downtown residents. The proposed cost was $90 per quarter, or $360 per year.
Mayor Bruce Bain said the city was listening to all concerns and would probably adjust the price of the pass. A final plan will be in place and enforcement will begin within a couple of weeks, the mayor said.
The parking time limits cover the entire working day, so an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon add up to the two-hour limit, if in the same zone.
Alex Athan, day manager at The Natoma, said the cumulative nature of the time limit will be confusing and a burden on patrons. "What I dislike most is if a customer is here at 11 a.m. for an hour, and has errands to run and comes back to meet friends for a cocktail or coffee, they're still on the clock for that hour," Athan said. "You still have only an hour left to work with."
The cumulative time limit was designed to eliminate the practice of downtown employees moving their cars a few spaces away every two hours to avoid tickets.

Parking Blog comments:
We are obviously missing something here. If I understand what is written above -- if I come in and park for 15 minutes in a two-hour zone, then leave and come back in an hour and stay for 45 minutes, then leave and come back in an hour and stay for 65 minutes, I have overstayed and will be fined.
Now just how are they going to enforce that? There must be some new technology we haven't heard about. And as you are aware, unenforced controls are worse than none at all.
A reader chimes in:
John: I can envision how you could enforce this using some of the new MLRP products now available, but it would take a great deal of time, effort and expense. A well-designed and enforced meter system would be a whole lot easier and surely more cost-efficient. Unfortunately, cost efficiency seems to frequently get relegated to the back of the bus when a City Council gets involved.

Councilman Files Petition To Prevent Paid Parking
After Councilman Doug Thomas' submission of signatures to the City Clerk's office in order to get his "no paid parking" proposal on the ballot, city officials in Dearborn, MI, said that though the names are in, that fact alone does not allow the proposal to come before the voters in November.
Thomas, along with the proposal's co-sponsor Tony Fera, gathered nearly 4,000 signatures from people who say they are against paying to park in city-owned lots.
Thomas and Fera said they are against paid parking for many reasons, including the fact they believe that businesses in the city's west end will suffer a significant loss of customers once the system starts. Originally slated to begin in January 2005, the system currently has no projected launch date, city officials said.
Mayor Michael Guido said the system is necessary because, though the businesses do pay a tax for maintenance of the city-owned lots, the city can no longer afford to pay the difference. Having users pay to park solves the problem, the mayor said -- a fact that Thomas disputes.
Parking Blog comments:
Funny, isn't Dearborn the home of Ford Motor Co.? It would seem that the birthplace of an industry should be able to understand that it costs money to park cars as well as to run them.
Let's see -- the businesses will suffer if paid parking is instituted. So you are telling me that the only reason people come to these businesses is because of free parking? They are willing to pay for parking to see a Tigers game, or to visit a fancy restaurant, or when they stay overnight at the Ren Center downtown, but they won't pay a small amount when they come to eat or shop in "West Dearborn?" Sorry, sports fans, it doesn't fly.
If you want people to come to your area and shop, give them a reason to do so. Make it fun to shop there. Clean up the streets, put in new lighting and storefronts, repave and fix the sidewalks. Increase security. Put in a 12- plex cinema.
Cost too much? Not if you take the money you get from parking and roll it back into the neighborhood from which it came.

Airport Traffic Creating a Shortage of Parking
Travelers using Philadelphia International Airport are running into an unexpected problem these days: There often is nowhere to park. This is occurring particularly with the long-term economy lot, which routinely fills up quickly each day.
Many airline passengers then are left with a difficult choice: risk missing their flights as they scramble to find off-site parking, or put their cars in airport parking garages, which charge $17 a day, compared with $9 a day in the economy lot. The short-term ground-level lots across from the airport's baggage-claim areas charge $38 a day.
Officials say parking spots are hard to come by because low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines, which began operating out of Terminal E in May 2004, is drawing far more passengers than expected.
The influx of passengers has flooded the airport's 17,172 parking spaces, including the 5,672-space economy lot, which often is the first to fill up, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which manages the lots and garages.
On a recent day, for instance, the "Lot Full" sign was up at 11:30 a.m. at the economy lot, and Parking Authority workers were referring motorists to the airport's garages. The same scenario occurred the next day. The situation has been exacerbated as Southwest's low fares have caused other carriers to lower their fares, attracting even more passengers, officials say.

Parking Blog comments:
Read this carefully - there are plenty of parking spaces; it's just that people don't want to pay for them. Yep, those pesky low fares at Southwest are simply ruining the parking at Philadelphia International.



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Article Abstract from October, 2005




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