Efficiency of TIA parking will rise, as will the prices

Published May 4, 2007

Travelers will dig deeper to park at Tampa International Airport starting June 15. But at least paying will be easier as the airport becomes equipped to collect from drivers with SunPass transponders next year.

People using Tampa International's remote economy garage and short-term parking will pay $2 a day more. Parking in the long-term garage and valet parking will go up $1 a day.

Hourly rates will rise to $3 in all garages, 50 cents above current rates. The first hour will still be free in short- and long-term parking.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority authorized the rate increases Thursday to offset costs of the current remote economy garage and a new one scheduled to open by Thanksgiving 2008.

The $71-million garage that opened in 2005 was a huge hit, relieving overcrowding at short-term and long-term garages.

But growing airport traffic, partly caused by customers attracted to the garage's $7 daily rate, forced the authority to launch plans for a new $83-million economy garage two years early.

Besides their high price tags, remote garages are costlier to run because buses are needed to shuttle people back and forth to the main terminal.

"We want to make sure they're self-supporting, " said Louis Miller, executive director of the aviation authority.

Raising rates will balance traffic among the garages, he said. Miller told agency directors he will likely ask to boost remote economy parking another $1 to $10.

To make paying for parking easier and faster, the airport will equip parking garages for drivers to use SunPass entry and exit lanes. The transponders sold by the state automatically debit prepaid accounts for tolls on Florida highways,

The remote economy garage will have SunPass readers no later than January, airport officials said, with short- and long-term garages following by September.

Driver will be able to use credit card machines to pay parking bills at the two close-in garages by January. The machines are already in use at the economy garage.

In other business Thursday, the authority received an updated report on the use of disadvantaged minority- and female-owned businesses in airport contracting.

Those businesses were under-represented among prime contractors in every area except sales of goods. Hispanic-Americans were under-represented in construction subcontracting, as were African-Americans among professional service subcontractors.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.