JIA adjusts parking rates in push for more customers
It's dropping prices in some lots, raising others to cut garage crowding.

Janet Bernard is ready to fight Jacksonville International Airport to retain her customers.

Bernard, owner of V.I.P. Park & Ride at 1565 Airport Road, is one of a half-dozen businesses that offer parking and a ride to the airport, putting them in competition with JIA for the parking revenue.

On Monday the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, which runs JIA, approved a parking rate adjustment that will lower overnight rates in the daily surface and economy parking lots. New rates begin Feb. 1.

However, the cost of parking overnight in the hourly and daily lots closer to the terminal will increase. The airport doesn't want people leaving their vehicles in those lots for long periods, but the price of parking for a few hours will stay the same.

The rate change means JIA will now have cheaper parking in some lots than the $4.99 a day that Bernard offers. But she isn't worried.

"We offer personal service that the airport can't match," said Bernard, mentioning curbside pickup, a free car wash, and having her employees check a customer's luggage upon arrival at the airport. "I don't think we'll lose any business."

Rates for the daily surface parking and economy lots 1 and 2 will be lowered by $2, while the parking rate for economy lot 3 will be lowered by $5.

The hourly daily garage rates will each see a $2 increase. Incremental rates in the garages and daily surface parking lot will remain at $1.50 per 20 minutes.

Nancy Coppen, JAA parking administrator, said one of the major goals of the rate change is to get cars out of the daily and hourly lots. People park there because it's closer to the terminal.

"Too many cars are staying overnight at the hourly garage because of the low rates," Coppen said.

That becomes a problem in the morning and afternoon hours because people coming to the airport to meet and greet arriving passengers can't find a parking space in the lot meant for them, creating more traffic congestion around the airport, Coppen said.

Airport Authority Executive Director Steve Grossman estimated that 65 percent of the hourly garage parking spaces are filled overnight.

Grossman wasn't sure if a $2 overnight increase, from $16 to $18, would be enough.

"If six months from now we've seen no movement out of the hourly garage," Grossman said, "we may have to look at adjusting it more."

Coppen said the airport expects to generate an additional $1.6 million in parking revenue in fiscal year 2011. The airport generated $15.2 million in parking revenue in fiscal year 2010.

Occupancy rates are expected to increase by about 10 percent. The increase is due to the new rates, and the airport's assumption that more people will use the airport in 2011 with the economy getting better.

The number of people using the airport in November 2010 increased by 8 percent compared to November 2009. In December the airport saw a 3 percent increase in traffic.

The possibility of the airport getting more customers didn't thrill Gary Pada, manager of Park EZ Fly at 1479 Airport Road.

"The last couple of years have been pretty bad," he said. "We're just starting to get more business."

Having the airport make a play for more customers won't help, Pada said.

But Bernard expressed confidence that her customers would remain loyal.

"When you get off the plane and call us we make sure there's a van waiting for you when you get to the curb," she said. "And we don't wait for the van to fill up."