The days of free parking for travelers using MidAmerica Airport are coming to an end.
The St. Clair County Public Building Commission has approved a parking system with a total cost not to exceed $850,000 that covers consulting contracts, construction and six parking terminals.
Multiple parking rates are still being considered, including charging $5 a day, $7 a day and hourly rates.
The new charges — an effort to create a new revenue stream for a facility that has long required public assistance — will take effect in 2018.
At a rate of $5 a day, the parking terminals, which are projected to open around April 1, would make about $320,000 in 2018, according to the commission. Starting in 2019, revenue is forecast to increase to $1.2 million at the $5-a-day rate.
At a $7-a-day rate, revenue in 2018 could be as much as $730,000 and rise to about $1.8 million in 2019.
The proposal also includes revenue estimates if fewer passengers use MidAmerica in the coming years. If those projections hold true, then 2018 revenue could be about $340,000 in the red, with 2019 revenue rising to roughly $730,000 in the black.
The new fees inspired a range of reactions Thursday on Facebook:
Jackie Engelman said, “All-in-all, that’s not such a bad rate, maybe they also need a long-term parking area at a set amount.
“Its still better than going to lambert,” Eric Vines, another poster, said. “I dont have to worry about connecting flights and lost baggage and driving with the idiots on 70.”
But others don’t like the idea.
Deb Bauchman said, “It was bound to happen. Nothing can ever be free. “Cheap” flights, but add seating choice, carry ons and checked baggage, now parking fees (equals) not cheap anymore!”
Deanne Vernon said, “That was one of the pluses of using MidAmerica Airport.”
Even though MidAmerica plans to charge for parking, the rates would still be lower than those at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
There, parking ranges from $23 for 24 hours near Terminals 1 and 2. Other lots that are farther away charges range from $7 to $15 a day.
Paid parking is scheduled to begin next spring, but circumstances could change that date.
“What if the weather in January and February is so bad that no civil work can be done?” MidAmerica Director Tim Cantwell wrote in an email. “What if the bids come in higher or lower for the civil work or the systems?”
“Depending on the civil work, operator, supporting equipment it could be earlier or later,” he wrote.
The airport is expecting 125,000 passengers to fly out of MidAmerica in 2017, an increase of 56 percent from 2016, but a parking system could decrease the number of people who leave their cars at the airport while they travel.
The Public Building Commission on Sept. 21 approved plans for up to six parking machines that would accept both cash and cards, and passengers would pay for parking after their flight, according to a memo from CMT Engineers, a consultant for the airport.
The terminals would connect to a customer service call center, and there may even be “parking ambassadors” to help people for the first few months of the new system.
Additional costs include between $4,000 and $6,000 a month for a third party to manage the lot, not including expenses, the memo said.