TAMPA - Motorists navigated Tampa International Airport with ease throughout much of Tuesday, the first day of new regulations to prevent gridlock at the main terminal's arrivals area.
The airport now prohibits motorists waiting beyond the time required to load passengers during three peak arrival periods: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. until midnight.
"The word is out," airport spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan said Tuesday afternoon. "It has gone very smoothly."
At 6:15 p.m., four cars were picking up passengers at the red level arrivals area. The other four lanes, frequently congested with parked cars, were free of traffic.
The airport long has had problems with "meeters and greeters" who linger in their vehicles at the terminal?s curbside. Motorists typically timed their arrivals with the scheduled arrival of flights, failing to take into account the time required to leave the plane and collect baggage.
Last week, the airport opened a new remote parking garage to ease the parking crunch as the airport handles record numbers of passengers.
To deal with gridlock, the airport on Tuesday began to offer one-hour free parking in the short- and long-term parking garages. That allows people to wait inside the terminal rather than park curbside.
A free cell phone lot also opened Tuesday, where motorists can wait for a call on their cell phones from arriving passengers ready for curbside pickup.
Reporter Ted Jackovics can be reached at (813) 259-7817.
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