Parking the Friendly Skies

Oct. 10, 2017
See how three airports used parking to humanize the passenger experience.

Embarking on a trip to the skies starts on the ground, often with parking. And in an era where air travel can make us feel like part of a herd, many airports are seizing the opportunity to create more humanized environments by modernizing dining choices, offering more amenities and providing a high quality experience that starts before you even exit your car. From site location to functional design to cutting edge technology, today's airports are creating parking that focuses on far more than square footage and stall count: it's an extension of the passenger experience.

So how can better parking ease some of the frustrations that come with flying the sometimes not-so-friendly skies? Facilitating a smoother arrival experience that can trim minutes off of what is already a stressful, time-constrained event goes a long way towards creating a happier passenger, but it doesn’t stop there. See how the cities of San Diego, San Jose and Long Beach integrated customer-first airport parking designed to enrich the human experience.

The San Diego International Airport was recently ranked the third best airport in the country. However rather than rest on its laurels, the Airport is seeking more ways to improve the passenger experience. In September, the airport broke ground on the Terminal 2 Parking Plaza, which will provide approximately 2,900 parking stalls while treating travelers to a uniquely “San Diegan” experience. Conveniently located directly across from Terminal 2, the parking plaza will incorporate state of the art technology that includes a camera based parking guidance system, the ability to reserve spaces in advance either online or with a mobile app and a robust revenue control system to help reduce exiting times. In addition to these time-saving measures, the plaza will boast public art while the top level of the structure will offer stunning views of the harbor and downtown San Diego.

Before construction of the ConRAC and Parking Structure, travelers coming and going from the San Jose Mineta International Airport were forced to take a shuttle from the terminal to an off-site rental car facility, particularly inconvenient for business travelers. To create a passenger-first experience at Silicon Valley’s airport, the Airport chose to relocate public parking and rental car facilities directly in front of the new Terminal B. Relocating the facility reduced average travel time from gate to vehicle by a whopping 20 minutes. The design of the customer service building creates even more convenience by allowing rental car users with premium contracts to bypass the line and go straight to their vehicles. In addition to reducing traffic congestion on airport roadways by over 25%, the ConRAC also created huge operational savings for rental car agencies. To humanize this highly efficient design, the east façade, which faces a major freeway, boasts monumental public art that depicts 65 foot hands based on photographs of Silicon Valley residents waving hello and goodbye.

To reduce stress for passengers, Long Beach Airport wanted to locate convenient parking within walking distance of the terminal. Part of a $140,000,000 modernization effort, the design of their new parking structure emphasizes convenience from reconfigured vehicular circulation that allows drivers to bypass the lower parking levels during peak times to automated vehicular and pedestrian pay stations that can expedite entry and exit. In addition to convenience, the design caters to travelers by sporting spectacular views of the iconic art deco terminal through the stair tower windows. Within months of the structure’s opening, Airport Director Mario Rodriguez reported a positive effect on passengers. "A garage within easy walking distance creates a more relaxed environment," he explained to Rebecca Douglass of "Passengers arrive to the terminal less stressed, which in turn takes the pressure off our TSA and airline partners. Everybody knows they have plenty of time, so the overall atmosphere is much calmer."

Michelle Wendler, AIA has been creating parking solutions for the firm’s clients for over 25 years. She is responsible for the design of over 150 parking projects and leads parking studies and parking structure design for the firm. A member of the Sustainability & Education Committees for the International Parking Institute, Michelle has penned and spoken on a number of industry topics, such as Healthcare Parking as the First Line of Customer Service, Incorporating Photovoltaics into Parking Structures & Parking Structure Aesthetics.

John Purinton, SE has been creating parking solutions for over 25 years. He is responsible for the design of over 125 parking projects and leads parking structure design for the firm. Currently the Vice Chair of NPA's Parking Consultant’s Council, John was a contributor to the latest edition of The Dimensions of Parking and has both written and spoken on design build delivery and the cost of parking structures.

About the Author

Michelle Wendler | Principal

About the Author

John Purinton | Principal