Parking Fees to Rise at Tulsa, Okla., Airport

Sep. 16--Rates for covered parking at Tulsa International Airport will increase from $6.95 to $8.95 per day Dec. 1, and shuttle lot rates will rise by $1 to $5.95 a day March 1, Tulsa Airport Authority trustees said Thursday.

Following recommendations of a consultant, Carl Walker Parking Inc. of Atlanta, trustees rejected a proposal by board member Carl Clay to increase covered and shuttle lot rates immediately.

"If you raise the (shuttle) rate $1, you're getting close to off-airport parking rates, which could drive some of your customers away," Lee Bourque, a Carl Walker consultant, told trustees. "A double whammy is difficult to take when you're hitting both business and leisure travelers. You want to capture (covered parking) departees in the surface lot if possible."

Covered parking accounts for about 40 percent of the 3,509 public parking spaces at the airport. Trustees increased covered parking rates from $5 to $6.95 a day July 1, 2004.

After spending three days reviewing airport and off-airport parking facilities earlier this summer, Bourque said a $2-per-day covered parking rate increase would reduce overflow pressure on 1,400 covered parking spaces. It also would encourage some travelers to park at nearby airport shuttle lots without driving them to private off-airport competitors, he said.

Off-airport competitors include Fine Airport Parking, 2010 N. Memorial Drive, which has 2,363 parking spaces that range from $3.95 to $12.95 a day; and Airport All-Covered Parking, 2215 N. Sheridan Road, which has 531 parking spaces at $5.95 and $6.95 a day.

Bourque, an airport parking official for 27 years at facilities in Denver, Atlanta and Shreveport, La., cautioned against raising rates so soon after the last rate increase and without offering patrons something "tangible" in return.

Bourque suggested that trustees consider an expansion of covered parking facilities in conjunction with the rate increase.

Carl Remus, deputy airport director of finance and administration, said airport staff is in the midst of replacing parking revenue-control equipment. New equipment could be in place within 60 days, he said.

Mayor Bill LaFortune suggested that if covered rates were increased Dec. 1, the new revenue equipment would be in place. If the shuttle rate went into effect March 1, he said, it would give the board time to gauge the effect of the covered parking increase. The board then could reconsider rates if the airport lost market share.

LaFortune's motion was approved unanimously by the board.

Another airport consultant, Leigh Fisher Associates, suggested last year that trustees seek additional nonairline revenue because airline costs have risen in recent years.

In a review of airport finances, Leigh Fisher found that because airline passenger traffic in Tulsa dropped after the 2001 terrorist attacks, airline payments per enplaned passenger increased from $6.50 in 2000 to $7.60 in 2003.

Leigh Fisher advised trustees that a prospective airline looking at Tulsa as a new market might be concerned about the increased costs, implying that trustees should find additional nonairline revenue.

The airlines underwrite the authority's operating budget, which is $17.75 million for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Airports Director Jeff Mulder said airport staff in the near future will examine the financial feasibility of adding a third level to the parking garage or adding canopies in the shuttle lots.

"Our patrons have demonstrated their desire for covered parking," he said.

Trustee Charles Sublett said a search committee he chaired recommends that the board contract with Tulsa law firm Doerner Saunders Daniel & Anderson LLP to provide legal services on an as-needed basis.

"We need breadth as well as depth of competence and experience . . . rather than having a middle man responsible for hiring firms with particular expertise," Sublett said.

In the annual election of officers, the board selected Meredith Siegfried as chairwoman, Clay as vice chairman, Nancy McNair as secretary and Mulder as assistant secretary.

Airport activity in August totaled 276,717 passengers, a 5.77 percent increase from the same month last year. For the first eight months of 2005, airline passenger traffic totaled 2.15 million, up 5.19 percent.