TAMPA — The cost of hourly parking at Tampa International Airport's garages would double if the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's governing board approves new parking fees on Thursday.
The first hour in the short-term lot would remain free. But after that, the airport wants to double the $1 it charges every 20 minutes to park in both the short-term and long-term garages to $2.
So, the cost in both garages, after the first hour, would double to $6 an hour. Short-term parking would still be capped at $20 for the entire day. The cap on the long-term parking garage fee would increase by $1 to $16.
According to the airport, 66 percent of drivers who use the short-term garage spend less than an hour there, so they will still park for free. Officials expect the new fees will impact fewer than half of the short-term parking customers.
Airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said the airport's parking rates just aren't competitive anymore. A 2012 parking study revealed that the airport's rates have fallen behind what other airports are charging.
"Parking rates haven't gone up since 2007," Zink said. "In that same period, we've invested $85 million in the parking garage."
The airport recently installed safety phones in the garages and is now repairing and upgrading the four-decade-old ramps that get vehicles in and out of the garage. Other infrastructure improvements are also planned.
By 2017, the airport expects it will have spent a total of $113 million to upgrade its parking facilities.
Aviation Authority chairman Robert Watkins said he's still studying the issue in preparation for Thursday's board vote. But his inclination is that the airport can't afford to leave any revenue behind.
"That revenue is going to be needed," Watkins said, "and our parking rates need to be appropriate."
There's still a free option for anyone picking up somebody from the airport: the cellphone waiting lot.