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RDU wants you to try its new online parking system and share your thoughts

Raleigh-Durham International Airport reopened nearly 1,200 spaces in its Economy 3 lot over the weekend, which should help ease the parking situation over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport reopened nearly 1,200 spaces in its Economy 3 lot over the weekend, which should help ease the parking situation over the Thanksgiving holiday. File

Raleigh-Durham International Airport is asking the public to help test its new and long-awaited system that lets people book and pay for parking at the airport online.

Starting June 12, RDU is allowing people to pay for their parking in advance at parkrdu.com. RDU says it is beta testing the system and will ask anyone who uses it to fill out a survey after they've been through the whole process, parked and left the airport.

RDU has been testing the system internally but wanted to see what customers think before fully rolling it out, said spokeswoman Kristie VanAuken.

“We’ve decided that we just want to move forward carefully and get some consumer feedback on the system before we hard-launch it later this year or potentially next," VanAuken said. "We want to be sure that the system is fully operational and that it works really well."

RDU had planned to launch online booking more than two years ago, but had to put it off because of trouble integrating the online system with the equipment that controls the entrance and exit gates to its parking deck and remote lots. Last fall, the airport installed new equipment that can read the license plates of arriving and exiting vehicles, telling the airport the moment you arrive in the deck and allowing you to pay on the way out even if you’ve lost your ticket.

Eventually, the license plate readers will let someone who has paid for parking online go in and out of the garage without obtaining a ticket or showing a receipt. During the testing phase, though, someone who pays online in advance will be given a QR code to enter and exit the parking deck or lot.

The airport has been working toward an online parking system for several years and had hoped to launch it by Jan. 1. VanAuken said the system took longer to develop than airport officials and their contractors expected.

"It’s a new technology," she said. "It’s not deployed at very many places around the U.S. We were a little overly optimistic."

Travelers who want to pay online must book their parking at least 24 hours before they arrive at RDU. They are guaranteed entry into the lot, but they are not assigned a reserved space. To ease the search for a place to park, spots for people who booked online will be reserved on the sixth floor of the central parking garage, VanAuken said.

The parking rates are the same whether you pay online or at the airport, though there are some online discounts available, such as $5 off weekend parking that is booked in advance.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling
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