Airport beckons travelers to its parking nightmare

Parking revenue at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport is down and the Metropolitan Airports Commission is trying to lure people back to its cement jungle. Who could see that coming? Anyone who has tried to park at MSP in the last year or so.

In the not-too-distant past, you could drive to the airport and pull up to near the front door and escalator in short-term parking. Then MSP tried to improve things, forcing drivers into a color-coded (has any place ever embraced colors and numbers like MSP?) maze that invited drivers into a circular labyrinth that beckoned drivers to each floor of trolling disappointment in search of a space.

When leaving the airport, you take your chances that the machines that replaced people will work and take your money.

Uber and public transportation never looked so good.

So now MAC is trying to figure out how to get you to love its parking offerings again, the Star Tribune reports.

On Wednesday, the ramp at Terminal 1 — the Lindbergh Terminal! — was full at noon, the Strib says. Why take a chance of facing that nightmare? So MAC is thinking of offering guaranteed spaces and change the pricing as the place fills up.

“The incentive is to have them do it ahead of time and at a better price,” said Atif Saeed, the MAC’s vice president of Finance and Revenue Development. “That can increase satisfaction. It’s a win-win. They get a wider range of products to choose from while we better manage our inventory and thus create more revenue.”

Or you can just take Uber, light rail, or have someone drop you off.

There are 24,000 spots available now at MSP with another 5,000 coming in 2020 when the “silver” (colors!) ramp opens.

There’s good reason for encouraging people to book spots online; under premium pricing, they otherwise won’t know how much it’ll cost until they get to the airport. The price would go up during busy periods, down during the week at times when there’s not that much traveling.

But there’s a whiff of cross-purpose here. Millions of dollars were invested in light rail, for example, to get people out of their cars to relieve pressure on infrastructure. But infrastructure as a revenue generator isn’t fully on board with the idea.

“I flew today,” a Strib commenter said. “Terminal 1 was full and Terminal 2 took 30 minutes to find a spot. Never again. Next time it’s light rail.”

“This is a parking place at an airport! It is a commodity. It is not an auction for a Rembrandt,” says another. “We, the traveling public want just a couple of things: reasonable cost, and reasonable certainty. Your proposal offers neither of these. You offer to hose college kids during spring break and their families.”

Whatever the solution, inevitably other construction nightmare is in the distance, the Strib notes, because the “gold” and “green” ramps are nearing the end of their useful lives.

  • John O.

    Light rail is (probably) the best of an array of bad options right now. I’ve dropped people off at 0400 and Lindbergh Terminal has been a total mess even at that hour.

    What also seems to be overlooked in the story are the two new hotels coming online in that same cramped hunk of real estate. I didn’t see anything in the story relating to the additional parking demands those two facilities will generate. Adding a final insult to injury, the traffic in and out of the Lindbergh Terminal on Glumack Drive is wretched, at best.

    • There’s a reason I try to fly out of Terminal 2.

      /I usually pick up/drop off people when others are flying since I live about 1 mile from the airport, albeit on the north side.

      • Agreed. I love the Humphrey. I’ll make connections at Midway for my flight to visit my mother just because I’ll fly Southwest rather than deal with the Lindbergh nonsense.

        • It’s really a shame that you can’t fly your own aircraft anymore.

          • I’m building another one that I can fly without a medical certificate.

    • The whole point of in-airport hotels is that people won’t need parking – they are geared towards business travelers, not your average person on vacation.

      • John O.

        I get that. But you also have folks flying into MSP that are conference presenters and/or attendees. Other attendees will drive for a variety of reasons, so they will require parking as well.

        I’m just surprised that the two new hotels did not somehow factor into the story.

  • Gary F

    I used to see billboards on West 7th Street for offsite parking. Is that still an option?

    • And there’s EZ AirPark in Eagan and that big lot just down the street from Terminal 2 that gives you Bible verses at no extra charge.

  • Dave S.

    Wait, you’re saying there was an intelligent comment on the Strib article, with no misspellings or personal attacks? Fake news!

  • Barton

    Admittedly, I have it easy. I live within walking distance of the light rail, so I don’t know that I’ve parked at the airport since…. probably 2004. I do tend to get a ride home though, and man! Arrivals is a nightmare.

    I think my favorite thing so far (in an evil sarcastic way) is all the announcements I heard while in Terminal 1 last week about people needing to move their vehicles. “Your car has now been ticketed and will be towed.” Or the few I heard about needing people to return to Valet parking because they hadn’t actually left their keys…..

  • Jay T. Berken
  • Rob

    Clusterf*~k, thy name is MSP…

  • MCH

    What they really need at MSP is a modern cell phone lot. Right now they have about 25 slots off of Post Road–hardly used at all–only about 30 of us even know they are there. Phoenix has a big lot with billboards showing arrivals. You hang out in the lot until the flight you are waiting for lands and then you go pick up your passengers. Eliminates the 2 rows of cars just waiting in desperation that their passengers come before the cops shoo them along and they have to do that inane loop back into the airport to start the process all over again. The Phoenix lot even has restrooms!

    • I love that lot. It’s saved me a ton of parking money over the last few years.

    • Wait, what?

      *takes notes*

    • Jerry

      I would just park at the embassy suites to wait for the phone call when I had to pick people up.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      We haven’t parked at the airport in years (20+ at least.) My wife flies more places than I do so most of the time I’m the airport taxi. She texts me when the plane lands or when she’s got her bags at the baggage claim and I head over. We live in St Paul in the shadow of the Brewery so it takes 10-15 minutes to get there.

      When we first moved to St Paul if we were both travelling we’d use the Davern lot off West 7th. Then we found out that a one-way taxi fare was pretty close to half the cost of the parking. So now when we both go we just get a cab there and one back.

    • Jack

      Phoenix lot is excellent. I love the flight board. Seattle has a healthy sized lot but alas, no flight board (or at least not that I remember).

  • Mike Worcester

    Some of us (cough, me, cough) use the Park-N-Fly or Park-N-Go services. Or we find a Park/Sleep/Fly hotel option. They drop you off at the underground level so access to the terminal is slick.

    • merry_rose

      Us too. We use the one on Shepard Rd.

    • Mel

      I agree, offsite parking all the way! Our family uses EZ Air Park.

  • crystals

    I’m not sure anything they can do will bring longer term parkers back until the total cost of parking is equal to or less than a round trip via Uber/Lyft/taxi. For me, living fairly close by the airport, parking on-site for a two-day trip is more expensive than the door-to-door service I get with those other options.

    They can go crazy with marketing all they want, but the price is what matters.