Airport, Parking Firm To Ask Public's Opinion On Parking Lots

Business travelers park overnight in the short-term parking lot at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport at Highfill, taking up spaces designated for people picking up or dropping off passengers.
The elderly and single parents with young children have to lug bags, strollers and other items from parking lots more than a five-minute walk from the terminal.

Virginia Mocivnik, a member of the airport board of directors, said some parking lots are too far away from the airport terminal to be practical.

Rental car companies also are beginning to run out of space, according to Kelly Johnson, airport director. There are 1,300 spaces for rental companies' vehicles, with 800 to 1,000 of those spots used each day, Johnson said.
The airport has 2,200 public spaces now and plans to open lots with an additional 800 spaces by week's end, according to Scott Van Laningham, regional airport executive director and chief executive officer.

The operations committee of the airport board of directors met Wednesday to consider building a $6.4 million to $8.2 million parking deck to meet future parking needs.

The committee also discussed running a shuttle service from parking lots to the airport terminal, at a cost of about $400,000 per year or having valet parking.

The committee did not make any decisions, but will ask passengers their opinions on parking.

Johnson said Republic Parking System, which operates and manages airport parking lots, will conduct the April survey. Passengers can answer questions about where they would park and how much they would pay to use a parking garage, shuttle services or valet parking.

"It serves us no purpose to offer an amenity that no one wants," said Alan Doherty, vice president of Republic Parking System.

Airport board member Stan Green said he thinks there are several alternatives to solve the parking issue instead of spending millions on a parking garage that may not be needed in the near future.

He proposed having Public Financial Management, a firm already advising the airport on financial matters and future needs, to examine parking needs.

Mocivnik asked airport staff to compile a list of all the options for improving parking and how much those options could cost the airport and Republic Parking in startup and continuing costs.

"Until we put all this together, there is little we can accomplish," Mocivnik said.
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