Parking Lots Full at Philadelphia Int'l Airport

On many days, the airport's 17,000 parking spaces are full and air passengers play a maddening game of parking-lot roulette. The authority plans 300 more spaces in the economy lot, but there are no firm plans for additional expansion.

That money will go into airport operating funds, not construction of more parking space. The Parking Authority also says it has trimmed operating costs since it took over management of the lots and garages last fall from a 30-year series of private operators.

Under private management, airport parking was twice the scene of major scams in which dishonest cashiers skimmed thousands of dollars from parking proceeds - most recently, leading to 17 convictions in a mid-1990s scandal.

Meanwhile, unrelated contracts at the airport have been a focus of federal prosecutors in the ongoing city corruption scandal.

The current parking problems develop, naturally enough, in the economy lot first.

"We've been filling the economy lot by Tuesday or Wednesday every week," said the Parking Authority's Miller.

Last Wednesday, for example, the economy lot was closed by 8 a.m., the garages for terminals C and D by 8:15, the garage for terminal B by 8:40 and even the last garages in line, at terminals E and F, by 11:42, Miller said.

By Thursday morning, Miller reported the lots were open again after returning travelers pulled out of their spaces.

The Parking Authority plans to add about 300 spaces to the economy lot by September, said Miller.

Parking and airport officials also are talking about adding more spaces elsewhere at the airport, possibly in the area of the terminal E and F garage. But that could require expanding or building more garage space - a time-consuming process that could take years from bond issue to completion.

Miller said surveys will be taken this summer among people who park at the airport to better pinpoint the needs.

"We understand the need for additional spaces and we're trying to work as quickly as possible," she said.

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