Magazine

Airports - Work With Off Airport Operators!!!

PT's Editor lets off some steam about airport parking

PT readers know that I'm one of the biggest supporters of off-airport parking operations. Not only do I think they are cheaper, and more convenient, but I just love the free market at work.
That having been said, I think that those operators do themselves a disservice not promoting their features and benefits to the airports themselves. It would seem that when there are parking issues at airports, they could easily be resolved by the private sector nearby. My guess is that around most airports there are plenty of parking spaces open, convenient, inexpensive and ready for parkers.
Consider this:
What would happen at say LAX, if the 15,000 or so parking spaces provided by the private sector didn't exist? What about all the vans that carry people back and forth to those locations - who would provide them and who would pay for them? It would seem to me that the airport would have a problem that it wouldn't be able to solve.
The case could be made that airports shouldn't charge the off-airport companies a fee to drive their customers on the airport, but should pay them because they are part of the solution. Ditto taxis, limos, car rental companies, etc.
However, when most people think parking at an airport, they think "on-airport." The airport should and could help a lot in promoting all parking around the airport, not just on-airport parking.
I understand that airports really don't want to promote their off-airport buddies, because they make a lot of money from parking, both on- and off-airport. Many airports make more from parking on-airport than they do from landing fees, and off-airport fees also generate big bucks for the public-supported airports. They also keep the charges up at the off-airport locations.
Now airports argue that the money from parking can be used for projects not easily allowed by FAA regulations, so the money is sought after. And, of course, any parker that spends $10 to park with ABC off-airport parking is $10 not spent with the airports, so these monoliths see off-airport parking as a direct competitor.
But it is fundamentally unfair that those who park at airports should pay for the landscaping, that new restaurant, a computer infrastructure upgrade or whatever provides benefits to all the people who use the airport. Would it not be more reasonable to charge each person who flies maybe five bucks more in a user fee? That would generate as much money as parking and not discriminate against those who elect to drive.
At the same time, airports and the surrounding neighborhoods complain about traffic congestion, pollution and the like. But they then build another 3,000-space garage up next to the terminal (can anyone say security?) so parkers have to drive right up to the airport, causing the very thing they are trying to alleviate.
Off-airport operators, by their nature, are located away from the airport. So folks don't have to drive up to the airport and cause the congestion. They park some blocks, or miles, away and are driven in comfort to the terminal. Why is this a bad thing?
Here's an idea: Why not have a place for folks to drop off their friends during high-traffic times, such as holidays, and let the off-airport operators pick up the folks in their vans and deliver them to the airport. Think of all the cars that wouldn't jam the terminals; think of all the free publicity the off-airport guys would get. In exchange, the airport could give the operators a break on their fees.
Gee, better service, lower costs, no investment for the airport. And this is just me and Willie Nelson (he's on iTunes) musing for 20 minutes. Think what a couple of operators and a couple of airports could come up with if they sat down for half a day and discussed mutual problems, and how to mutually solve them.
Oh, yes, then there's the $100M??? parking structure that needs to be built on land that doesn't exist. Although I haven't done the study, I would guess that the money generated by the garage goes to pay off the garage and its operation, with very little actually going to the airport itself for years. (Well, Dan, can you fill me in on this one?)
Don't worry, construction and design guys. The garages built off-airport are fancier and probably will generate as much or more business than on-airport. Ditto for revenue control companies.
I do know that off-airport operators don't want to talk to airports. They see them as monsters that want to take their businesses and use every type of government ploy, including eminent domain, to do away with their businesses.
It would seem to me that this would be a perfect project for the IPI and NPA to work on. Bring together the IPI members that are airports and the NPA members that are off-airport operations and get them to work together to solve airport parking issues.
What's that sound I hear - hell freezing over?

Sidebar:
Parking at O'Hare
The Chicago Tribune goes overboard on its parking concerns at O'Hare International Airport, commenting on the 45-minute trip from the airport's long-stay lots to the terminals, and the overcrowding and other issues.
PT did a test: We went to Google, typed in "Parking at O'Hare," and got a list of seven very convenient off-airport parking facilities, many inside hotels, that are cheaper, better, faster than self-parking at the airport. All claim to get you to your terminal within 15 minutes. All claim to be up to $15 a dayless expensive, and nearly all have easier access than fighting the traffic and Gordian knot of roads within the airport proper.
By the way, there were a lot more. The seven I got from Google were simply the first listing; there were another 20 or so on the following pages.
What's the problem? The guy in the Trib was fuming and complaining, but the article didn't even mention the fact that motorists could solve their parking problem by making a quick right (or left) turn off the interstate and pulling into a convenient, well-run and inexpensive private facility.

Article Abstract from June, 2006




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