Raleigh-Durham International Airport wants travelers to start paying for their parking online, before they drive to the airport.
The airport will overhaul its parking system this spring. Daily and hourly rates still will be available, but the parking garage no longer will be split into daily and hourly sections.
The ground floor of the garage – where about 1,100 spaces recently have been cleaned up and repainted – will be converted into a new premium-price zone marketed as “ParkRDU Premier.”
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Mike Landguth, the airport president and CEO, said the appeal of this section will be its easy entrance, close access to both passenger terminals, and quick access to the exit gates.
“It’s easy because you can whisk in, you can park very close, and when you leave, you have two exit lanes,” Landguth said Thursday.
There’s never an issue for the customer. You book online, you’re going to have a space.
Mike Landguth, RDU president and CEO
Starting May 1, travelers will be encouraged to avoid the top rates – saving $2 or $3 per day in the garage – by booking and paying for their parking online at parkrdu.com. That way, he said, drivers come to the airport assured that they have a place to park – even at the busiest times of the year.
“There’s never an issue for the customer,” Landguth said. “You book online, you’re going to have a space. You can have a deck that’s closed, and others are turned away. But somebody who has a reservation can still come to that deck and drive right in.”
Consultants and focus groups helped RDU shape the new system, borrowing elements from some other airports, especially in Europe and Australia. Landguth said some business travelers are willing to pay more than $20 a day for premium parking, which will have a top daily rate of $15 for those who pay online.
Airport officials hope the arrangement will enable them to make better use of RDU’s entire parking inventory, reducing situations where some sections are clogged and others are empty.
Some drivers will pay more under a new fee structure that will start April 4. When the advance payment and reservation system begins operation May 1, discounts will knock some of these rates back down.
For more than 10,000 spaces in most of the seven-level “ParkRDU Central” garage – excluding the ground-level Premier zone – the daily maximum rate will rise from the current $12 to $14 for travelers who drive up without a parking reservation. Those who book and pay in advance online will pay $12.
The garage has filled up a few times in recent weeks, partly because RDU closed off the ground level in late February for cleaning, painting and new lighting. Improvements are planned this spring for the park-and-ride lots, which will be rechristened “ParkRDU Economy.”
Reservations will guarantee entry to parking areas – but they won’t be tied to individual parking spaces, like reserved seats at a concert. Landguth predicted the new system will be popular with business travelers.
“I think the customer experience will be far better,” he said. “A lot of customers don’t like the unknown. Is the deck going to be closed or not today?”
The reservation system will give RDU new options to offer short-term discounts to fill parking areas that are empty. Landguth cited the airline business, which varies ticket prices in advance and charges higher rates for travelers who pay at the last minute.
If the economy parking lots are jammed with students during the busy spring break travel season – but there is plenty of space in the “ParkRDU Central” garage – RDU could offer the garage space for $10 a day instead of $12, he said.
“We can be looking at inventory, and if we need to provide a different product someplace to encourage people to move to a different location, we can,” Landguth said. “So we maximize the use of our facility.”
RDU parking fees change
Garage: $2 per hour, $12 per day maximum
Park & Ride 3 & 4: $1 per hour, $6 per day
New rates start April 4
ParkRDU Premier: (1,100 spaces in covered garage ground floor): $3 per hour*, $18 per day maximum. Online reservation daily rate (starts May 1): $15
ParkRDU Central: (10,000 garage spaces): $2 per hour*, $14 per day. Online reservation daily rate: $12 per day.
ParkRDU Economy 3: $1 per hour*, $7 per day. Online discounts expected, such as 7 days for the price of 6.
ParkRDU Economy 4: $1 per hour*, $6 per day.
How it will work
If you pay for parking online in advance, you get a QR code to use at both the entrance and exit gates. Other drivers use the current system, with paper tickets.
* Hourly rates good up to four hours