A monorail system and expanded rental car facilities are just a couple of ideas airport officials are tossing around as they update Tampa International's master plan.
They want to hear what their visitors think, as well.
The first of three public meetings about the 20-year master plan will be held this evening. Airport officials want input on what else should be included in the plan for airport properties and services.
"We can only make the best decision when we have input from all the varieties of sources," said Al Illustrato, the airport's vice president of facilities and customer services.
As part of the update to the plan, which is done every five to seven years to adjust to changing passenger numbers, airport officials are evaluating all real estate and services to determine what can be changed, moved or expanded.
At the top of the to-do list, Illustrato said, is figuring out how to expand rental car facilities and incorporate public transit systems in coming years.
Planners will be looking at the south side of the airport's 3,300-acre property (where the economy parking garage and the cellphone waiting lot are located) as a possible location for expanded parking or rental car facilities. A monorail system connecting those lots and the main terminal is something the airport would likely consider, Illustrato said.
But officials are cautious about adding and expanding. Tampa International Airport does not have the wide-open space available as its counterparts in cities like Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth do.
"We have to be careful to make sure that we don't shut something out that wants to come to the airport because we didn't plan enough space for it," Illustrato said.
Particularly if that something is a light rail system or a new bus route to the airport.
Illustrato said the airport will definitely incorporate public transit stations in coming years. Officials just don't know where to put them yet or how to connect them to the main terminal.
"Other than thoughts and concepts, we really don't have all the details until we're done with the crunching," he said.
The development of the master plan is dependent on forecasts of passenger numbers for the next 20 years. Right now, TIA and the Federal Aviation Administration, which will review the master plan when it is complete, only have rough estimates.
About 17 million visitors pass through TIA per year now, but that number is expected to increase to almost 29 million in 2031, said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink.
Under the previous version of the master plan, which was updated in 2005, airport officials expected passenger numbers to grow rapidly enough to build another terminal on the north side of the property by 2015.
But rising fuel prices and the recession drove passenger numbers down, and now a second terminal will not be necessary for a while, Illustrato said. Instead, the airport will be expanding the existing terminal and looking for other locations for parking garages and rental car facilities.
When the airport's primary expansion needs are met, officials will look into customers' suggestions such as gas stations and pet kennels, Illustrato said.
"We have to be very careful because we can't make a mistake in terms of placing," he said. "Our plan will tell us what can fit."