BURBANK - A record number of passengers and new flights to New York City mean good business for Bob Hope Airport. Maybe too good.
The airport is experiencing a parking crunch, and officials are urging passengers to hitch rides with family or friends, take shuttles or use Metrolink or other public transit.
``We're anticipating a strong potential for a capacity shortage this summer and beyond,'' said Bob Hope Airport spokesman Victor Gill. ``What do we do about it? We don't have any real estate.''
The lack of parking caught airport officials slightly off guard, Gill said, even though Delta Airlines set up a flight at Burbank, and JetBlue took advantage of the void left by Aloha Airlines' departure last year from Bob Hope.
Howard Rothenbach, the founder and chairman of the grass-roots Committee to Restore Our Airport Rights, is not surprised.
``They've gotten their success, and it's put them in a corner,'' he said.
Gill attributes the crunch to a resurgence in air travel since the 9-11 terrorist attacks and unexpected arrivals from the Delta and JetBlue flights. A record 5.5 million passengers traveled through the airport in 2005, surpassing the 4.9 million recorded in 1995 and 2004.
The airport also saw a spike of 25 percent in parking revenues last year. The airport's 6,500 spots fill up faster now because passengers flying across the country are tying them up longer. In the past, the airport offered flights mostly up and down the West Coast.
``When you're going on a longer trip, you tend to have a longer duration of the trip as well,'' Gill said. ``We don't have a quick turnover to free up the inventory that we had in the past.''
The airport's four economy lots, one short-term lot and valet parking fill up frequently, especially on weekends and holidays, Gill said. About 1,000 people a day use valet.
On the Web site bobhopeairport.com, officials have resorted to warning travelers that parking is tight, suggesting they use alternatives - rides from friends or family, shuttles, trains or buses.
Airport officials recently purchased the Star Park lot - 26 acres with 1,100 economy lot spaces and 1,500 valet spaces - from a private company. Another 250 spaces are expected to be freed up in the coming months, spots occupied by airport employees, who will park in a designated new employee lot elsewhere.
Other options are expected to be introduced at an airport commission meeting next month. Gill would not discuss specifics, and no dollar amounts have been floated. But federal grants for parking are out of the question, he said. Grants are used for aviation infrastructure projects - maintenance and construction of airfields, runways, taxiways and navigational systems, he said.
Rothenbach is concerned the airport could ask to amend a development agreement between the airport and the city of Burbank that prohibits airport expansion on 58 acres of the former Lockheed site, to use for more parking.
``I'm willing to bet the farm on it,'' he said.
The development agreement is firm, Gill said, adding, ``The authority intends to abide by the agreement.''
Southwest Airlines, the airport's biggest user that usually accounts for more than 65 percent of passenger traffic, is working with the airport to explore options.
``We are aware that there are some concerns about parking as we head into summer travel season,'' Southwest spokeswoman Paula Berg in a prepared statement. ``Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing an easy and convenient travel experience for our customers, and we certainly want to maintain that level of service in Burbank.''
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