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'Fee’ may raise price of off-site parking at Tampa airport

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Published:   |   Updated: October 29, 2013 at 05:53 AM

TAMPA — The price of parking at privately operated, off-site lots serving Tampa International Airport passengers could increase if a new 8.5 percent Hillsborough County Aviation Authority “privilege fee” on gross parking sales is imposed, the president of A-1 Express said Monday.

Del Smith said he will meet airport Chief Executive Officer Joe Lopano Wednesday in hopes of revising the rate of the fee, which he said eventually could be passed on to customers in the form of a tax if the airport’s current plan moves forward.

Smith said his lot and two others — another three have gone out of business in the past year or so — save consumers $2 or more a day over the airport’s $9 daily fee at its economy lot and provide valet service at the same base cost to the elderly and others who cannot easily navigate airport parking where valet service costs $25 a day.

“We understand the airport needs to recoup revenue,” said Smith, who also is contacting the aviation authority board members who approved the policy earlier this month and are scheduled to vote on the final agreement Nov. 7.

“We have had a free ride from a privilege fee for the 19 years we have been in business, but I just want to determine if there is any way else we can look at this,” Smith said.

Case law indicates that businesses using airport facilities to make a profit from airline customers can be charged for their use of airport property, Tampa International spokeswoman Janet Zink said.

“What we are doing is not unprecedented,” Zink said. “ Revenue generated from the privilege fee will help maintain the airport facilities, including the roads and curbsides the off-airport parking companies use.

“If the off-airport companies choose to pass the privilege fee increase on to their customers, they still will maintain their niche as a lower-cost alternative to the convenience of on-airport parking.”

The airport increased its parking rates effective Oct. 1. But those rate changes at the short-term and long-term garages affect only about 10 percent of the travelers using them, because most people either park for less than one hour, which is free, or for at least a day, which has a price cap.

The maximum daily rate for the economy garage remained unchanged at $9 a day, along with the daily rate at the short-term garage that remained unchanged at $20, while the maximum daily rate at the long-term garage increased $1 to $16.

Parking usage at the short-term garage increased 4.6 percent since Oct. 1 compared with a year ago, Zink said, despite the rates doubling from $1 to $2 for each additional 20 minutes up to the $20 daily maximum.

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