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Airport parking pains intensify

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

With less short-term parking available at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, drivers who pick up airline passengers say they’re developing new strategies to cope during the next year and a half while the airport’s hourly parking decks will be closed.

On Monday, some drivers said they would use the cell phone parking lot, while others planned to loop around the airport while waiting to pick up passengers. One driver said he planned to wait off-site for his arriving passengers in case there was no space at the cell phone lot.

The east hourly parking deck closed last week. Workers are removing that deck and the west hourly deck to make room for a new hourly deck and rental car facility. That $120 million facility will have 7,000 parking spaces spread among seven levels.

Officials expect the new deck to open in November 2014.

Airport spokeswoman Lee Davis said that while airport traffic was normal for a Monday, officials noticed a slight increase in curbside and business valet check-ins between 7 and 9 a.m.

During renovations, officials have recommended that drivers picking up passengers use the cell phone lot off Rental Car Road.

Davis said there are 57 free parking spots in the cell phone lot, where drivers wait for phone calls from arriving passengers.

Should that lot overflow, Davis said drivers can use the long-term parking lot, which charges $5 a day. Currently there is no plan to make the lot free for the first half hour to compensate for the temporary closure of the hourly parking lot.

Some drivers said they planned to avoid charges altogether by looping around terminal roadways until the person they’re picking up arrives.

“Everyone’s going to go for the free option,” Huntersville resident Heston Blake said while waiting to pick up some friends from Minnesota. “I’ll just keep circling around if I have to.”

While directing traffic Monday outside of the departures level, one officer said he noticed “a lot more people coming through with all the construction going on.”

Davis said the airport has added more officers to make sure traffic continues moving outside the terminal.

Most drivers on Monday were understanding of the airport’s construction.

“It’s good for the long term because they definitely need more parking,” Susan Javon, of Clover, S.C., said while waiting to pick up her next-door neighbor.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, drivers have access to a cell phone lot with 150 spots. In addition, the airport’s hourly lot, which is across a walkway from the domestic terminal, is free for the first 15 minutes and $2 for the first hour. Rates rise for each additional hour drivers stay there.

The Atlanta airport also allows for curbside pick up and drop off, although like Charlotte, cars are not allowed to wait at the curb, spokeswoman Myrna White said.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, drivers must pay $1 an hour for short-term parking. There’s also a cell phone lot about two minutes away from terminals that is free. That lot has about 200 spaces, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.

Daily parking at that airport is $2 per hour or $12 for the day.

Arriero: 704-804-2637 On Twitter: @earriero
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