Houston plans airport garage three times larger than the terminal

| August 21, 2014

Last year, 11 million people passed through Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, a record number of travelers that means more flights — but also fewer parking spots for employees, passengers, and the people who ferry them to and from departure and arrival gates.

aerial view of hobby airport in houston

Houston’s Hobby Airport, a major Southwest Airlines hub. From AuburnPilot.

“It’s always hard looking for a parking spot,” says Myesha Harry, who was recently at the airport to pick up loved ones. “You just drive around until you find one. Sometimes it takes, like, 30 minutes.”

That behavior — circling garages and lots for parking — not only frustrates drivers, it also increases the risk of accidents and environmental damage as the gas gauge ticks lower and pipes emit car exhaust. With Houston, America’s fourth largest city, often failing to meet federal smog standards, the latter is an especially troubling outcome.

But late next year the parking hassles at Hobby will be a thing of the past. The airport hired Walker Parking Consultants, which has designed facilities for numerous airports, including Raleigh-Durham, Abu Dhabi, and Memphis, to retool its parking, and the results look to take advantage of recent developments in parking technology.

The new garage, which will add 3,000 parking spaces to the airport’s supply, will feature a guidance system that uses single-stall overhead LED indicators — green for available, red for taken — to tell drivers where parking spots are open.

Other environmentally friendly features include LED lighting throughout the almost 1 million square feet — three times the size of the new terminal that will connect to the garage — currently under construction. The LED lights will dim as natural light increases. The garage will also offer ten electric vehicle-charging stations, and vehicular bridges connecting the new and existing garage on each level will minimize the time needed to find an open parking space.

Until the garage is finished, drivers continue to encounter headaches at Hobby, especially during busy days in the middle of the week. Airport officials are recommending that travelers leave their cars at home. Those visiting the airport to pick up passengers are being asked to wait in the cell phone lot instead of securing a parking space at the garage.

“Please have a friend drop you off,” Liliana Rambo of the Houston Airport System told travelers. “If you really must bring your vehicle and you are running out of time, valet park.”

Valet parking, which only became available at Hobby in December 2012, can be reserved in advance.

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Category: Parking, Parking management

About the Author ()

Cielo Lutino is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written for such publications as the L Magazine and Portland Monthly, and her literary nonfiction has appeared in journals such as the Los Angeles Review and Cold Mountain Review.

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