Tampa: An Airport Designed to Succeed
“It’s all about service. Our success is when we provide the best service to our customers.” That is how Karl Martin, Deputy Director of Operations, Parking and Ground Transportation, Tampa International Airport, opened the conversation with Parking Today.
Martin and his boss, Robert Burr, Director of Operations, spoke last month about parking at this uniquely designed airport, one that seems to have been built for the parker as much as for the airplane.
“Leigh Fisher designed the airport nearly 40 years ago, and it works perfectly today. It’s designed for expansion, and designed for the type of traveler that uses it,” added Burr. “This airport works well.”
The majority of parking at Tampa International is above or directly adjacent to the terminal. The short-term lot’s elevators take parkers directly to the ticketing areas. The long-term garage has pedestrian bridges and a monorail for those not wishing to walk. The furthest one has to walk from their car parked in either garage to a gate is less than 1,000 feet.
“The design made the difference,” Burr added, “parking here is convenient. We have 10,900 spaces connected directly to the terminal, and an additional nearly 10,000 spaces in economy parking nearby.”
“We seldom fill,” noted Martin, “We get close at the holiday season. The new economy garage takes care of the overflow from the close in garages. The prices are attractive, with only $7 for the economy garage versus $14 and $18 per day in the garages at the terminal.”
The airport offers valet service but it is used sparingly. “Some see it as expensive at $24 a day,” noted Burr. “After all, you can park in the short-term lot, walk a few feet to an elevator, be at the terminal level, and save $6 a day. The short-term lot is so convenient we are our own best competitor.” Although they have 250 spaces allocated for valet, a daily average is less than 100.
As for off airport parking, there are a couple, but good on-airport service, competitive rates, and geography have a lot to do with limiting the competition.
“Access to the airport is basically directly off a number of expressways. Plus there’s not a lot of available land convenient to the airport. But we like to think that its because we offer excellent service.”
The economy garage offers credit card in/out and the short and long-term garages offer credit card payment on exit. In all cases, the driver pays at exit. There is no Pay on Foot.
“We made a conscious decision,” said Burr. “Our customers like to pay at exit. We have a very large toll plaza (12 lanes) and automated credit card acceptance on exit.”
About 40% of the parkers in the economy lot use credit cards, and 70% at the main toll plaza. “The business travelers that use the short-term and long-term facilities are more used to using credit cards and thus we see a higher usage there than in the economy lots,” said Martin. “The automatic payment by credit card on exit is used typically only when there is a line up at the non automated lanes. If people see a cashier, they typically use the cashier lane.”
The airport is gearing up to take Florida’s toll road payment system for parking. The Sun Pass transponders are accepted at Orlando and other airports. Tampa will be on line this year. “We expect to see some usage,” said Burr, “however probably not as much as Orlando. They have many more toll roads in the area and quite a lot of the residents use Sun Pass. We have only two roads here that charge tolls and Sun Pass usage is much lower.” (See the related article nearby on automated toll acceptance.)
“Since short-term parking is located an elevator ride’s away and that we offer the first hour of parking free, many drop offs are done in the garage. It’s just as convenient as dropping off at the curb. People enter the garage, drop off their passengers at the elevator, park, and then and then assist them to the terminal. This is great service and it keeps a tremendous amount of traffic out of the areas in front of the terminal. Once again, a great design means great service.”
“The most compliments on our service? It’s the cell phone lot,” said Martin. “We have a lot where people can wait until they are called by the person they are picking up. They can then come in to the airport and meet the arriving passenger curbside. They don’t keep cruising and they are constantly being reminded by our security staff that they can’t wait at the curb.”
“It’s interesting. This is a solution that just happened. No airport seemed to ‘invent’ it. As more and more people began carrying cell phones, they began to wait for the call in restaurants and at roadside parking areas. The airports saw that they could cut the cruising by providing a free waiting area. Most airports offer them now.”
Trend Spotting – Toward Cashless
By Forrest Swonsen
Ten years ago, how many of us imagined banking via the Internet or using ATM cards to buy fast-food or paying tolls as we blasted by at 60 mph? Technology is erasing boundaries, and convenience is central to customer service. This shift to an almost cashless culture has businesses hustling to adapt, and even the venerable Economist magazine recently declared “The End of the Cash Era” is upon us.
Acceptance of wireless payment systems for parking is growing around the country, and interoperability of automatic vehicle identification (AVI) parking systems with electronic toll collection has moved beyond early adopters to broad acceptance. There are more than 30 million tags in use today.
Never has there been a more opportune time to consider using wireless payment technology for parking.
Six years ago, fewer than five U.S. airports were actively using this revenue collection concept. Counting operational systems as well as those in development, that number will triple by early 2008.
Article Abstract from April, 2007