Metro cuts parking rates

Deck spaces reduced to $5 for summer

Detroit Metro Airport is slashing long-term rates at one of its parking decks in half.

While that's sure to be a hit with travelers, owners of nearby privately owned parking lots say it's the latest move in the airport's effort to run them out of business.
metro-north.jpgBeginning today and running through Sept. 1, the airport will reduce the daily fee for 4,100 of the 5,600 spaces in its parking deck next to the Smith and currently closed Davey terminals from $10 to $5 a day.

Metro's rates haven't been that low since the 1980s, and it's almost 40 percent less than what most of the private lots around the airport currently charge. Airlines Parking on Merriman Road, for example, charges $7.95 a day and $47.70 per week.

"It now makes sense for people to use the airport lot" instead of off-site parking, Metro spokesman Michael Conway said Friday.

The price cut comes less than a month after Metro imposed a new fee on parking lots and hotels that drop off and pick up customers at its terminals.

Starting May 1, every shuttle bus or van serving the airport must have a $260-a-month permit. Since each lot owns 20 to 25 shuttles, the new fee costs them more than $5,000 a month.

Christopher Kouza, an attorney representing eight off-site parking lots that have already sued the county over the shuttle van fee, said the new price cut "is an attempt to put off-site parking lots out of business.

"There is no way my clients can bring down their prices" to $5, Kouza said Friday. "This is just another example of bad faith on the part of the airport authority."

Competition between the airport and its off-site rivals has become more intense over the past year because:

* The number of people flying is down. Passenger traffic at Metro is down by almost 10 percent since 2000 thanks to a slumping economy and lingering fears of terrorism.

The number of parking spaces is up. The airport opened a second parking deck with 11,500 spaces at the new midfield terminal last year. With that addition, there are more than 40,000 parking spaces at and around the airport, up 35 percent from 2001.
As a result of this, Kouza said, revenue at the privately owned lots has fallen almost 30 percent in the last two years. The Wayne County Airport Authority says its parking revenue was 16 percent lower last year than in 2000.

Reducing rates at the so-called Big Blue Deck makes sense because it has been been under-used since Northwest Airlines moved from Davey to the midfield terminal in February 2001.

"We are not doing this to lose money. We want to improve the utilization," Conway said. "We want people to get used to parking at the airport," and after that use the airport parking more often, he said.

This is the airport's second attempt to attract customers to its lots. In September, the airport began offering coupons through its Web site. The coupons allowed customers to park for $7 instead of the regular $10.

"We tried the coupon program and it was moderately successful," said Conway. He said that about 10 percent of the people parking at the airport used the coupon.

Airline experts said airports, not just the one in Detroit, are beginning to realize that they were charging too much to their customers for parking.

"My in-laws were parking (at Detroit Metro) off-site almost 30 years ago," said Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based airline expert at"Sometimes, parking costs more than a low-cost airline ticket," he said. "That is why off-site parking has done so well for so long."
Detroid Free Press
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