Make us your home page

First-hour-free parking at Tampa International Airport might end

TAMPA — One of the few freebies at Tampa International might be on its way out.

Interim executive director John Wheat wants to end first-hour-free parking in the short- and long-term garages.

Airport officials first waived the charge in 2005, when congestion outside the main terminal caused friction between drivers waiting to pick up passengers and police determined to keep traffic moving. Free parking helped clear the curbs. But it's not necessary anymore, Wheat said Thursday.

The airport built a free cell phone lot where drivers wait and watch boards displaying flight-arrival times before picking up passengers. A corps of customer-friendly traffic specialists replaced cops with guns and badges at the curbs. And passenger traffic has dropped significantly in recent years.

Currently, no matter how long you stay in the garage, the first hour is free. Airport officials say four out of 10 vehicles that park at Tampa International stay less than an hour and don't pay a cent.

That costs the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority serious money. If the agency ends free parking, drivers would pay $1 for first 20 minutes, $3 for the first hour. Wheat estimated the change would generate an addition $2.2 million a year.

Wheat made the recommendation when he presented the authority's budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. His bosses on the authority's board were mostly cool to the idea.

"I'd hate to see any increased cost put on the people of the community," said board chairman Al Austin. He also worried conflicts between drivers and officers would resume.

Airport staffers estimate 500 to 700 more cars a day — 35 to 50 in peak hours — would crowd the curbs if free parking is eliminated. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan suggested the estimate might be low.

"When there are changes in tax policy and fees, the consumers reacts accordingly," he said. "You might receive less revenue than you expect."

But Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio warned that pulling items out of a budget in lean years can have unintended consequences. Keeping the hour of free parking could require other cuts that people won't like, she said.

The authority's proposed budget anticipates a modest 2.2 percent increase in passengers for the coming year after three years of decline. Operating revenue is projected to grow 6.6 percent to nearly $174 million. The agency will eliminate 42 positions and lay off 20 employees.

Most of the cuts will come from the planning and development staff because declining passenger numbers means postponing construction projects.

The free parking would end Oct. 1 if the authority board approves the proposal on Sept. 2.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

First-hour-free parking at Tampa International Airport might end 08/05/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. To catch a poacher: Florida wildlife officers set up undercover gator farm sting


    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, state wildlife officers created the ultimate undercover operation.

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  2. CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill


    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    Demonstrators protests the passage of a House Republican health care bill, outside the the Capitol in Washington, on May 4. The House took the unusual step of voting on the American Health Care Act before the Congressional Budget Office could assess it. That analysis was released Thursday and it showed the bill would cause 23 million fewer people to have health insurance by 2026. Many additional consumers would see skimpier health coverage and higher deductibles, the budget office projected.
  3. Florida Specialty Insurance acquires Pinellas Park's Mount Beacon Insurance


    Tens of thousands of homeowners who were pushed out of Citizens Property Insurance for a private carrier since 2014 are finding themselves changing insurance companies yet again.

  4. Marijuana extract Epidiolex helps some kids with epilepsy, study shows


    A medicine made from marijuana, without the stuff that gives a high, cut seizures in kids with a severe form of epilepsy in a study that strengthens the case for more research into pot's possible health benefits.

    An employee checks a plant at LeafLine Labs, a medical marijuana production facility in Cottage Grove, Minn. [Associated Press (2015)]
  5. St. Pete Economic Development Corporation lures marketing firm MXTR to town

    Economic Development

    St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation has lured its first big catch to St. Petersburg — MXTR Automation. The digital marketing company announced Wednesday that it will fill 20 "high-wage" creative positions within the next 18 months, as well as open an office in downtown St. Petersburg this year.