This morning I took TriMet to PDX on my way to San Francisco for the National Planning Conference.
I’ve been coming to and from the Portland Airport since I was a teenager and the number of times I’ve parked here could be counted on one hand and it’s been over 10 years. Generally the MAX to the terminal is the best option and off-hour arrivals or departures are usually handled by a neighbor or TNC (or combo of that and public transit).
But there are 2,400+ people who park, for free (and more who park for less than a dollar a day), at PDX every day… Port of Portland employees and airport vendors.
This is a significant figure because the Port is currently proposing to build another 2,400 stalls at the airport, ostensibly to meet rising demand for parking (the airport is expanding it’s D terminal as I write this).
According to the Port, this new parking is needed because “two or three days per week, the Long-Term Parking Garage is either full or near capacity.” When that happens, customers may use the Short-Term garage, “pushing the Short-Term Parking Garage closer to capacity!”
The Long-Term Parking Garage is, itself a $156 million expansion completed in 2010. At the time it was opened, during the recession, the Port had to close surface lots to push demand into the garage so it wouldn’t be empty. The new project will cost another $265 million, the Port insists rental car concessions and parking fees will pay for it. I think long-term prospects for rental car businesses at airports might not be so rosy.
And as for passengers, certainly the Port wants to provide accommodating experiences for all visitors, but we have light-rail to the terminal. Will an entity with such large debt to recover from parking be incentivized to push transit as the best way to get to and from the airport? Providing a TriMet day pass with every ticket would be great, but when the Port needs that parking money flowing in, why would they offer that to passengers?
The Port should start by charging higher earning employees market rates for parking at the airport. Perhaps a mix of that and some more encouragement for passengers to take MAX would allow them to muddle through with only 17,000 stalls.
Update: Port of Portland PIO Kama Simonds provided the following statement: “Employees have a choice: they can park in the airport employee parking lot on Alderwood (Road) for free, pay $20/month to park in the surface lot due east of the air traffic control tower, or pay $80/month to park in the parking garages.”
The Alterwood Road lot contains 2,400 stalls. The $20/month surface lot contains 450 stalls.