CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland Hopkins International Airport will reopen the Brown Lot next month, in an effort to alleviate what has become an unexpectedly tight parking situation at the airport.
Airport officials say they are surprised at the quicker-than-expected rebound of air travel, which has put a squeeze on parking this spring. “We thought we had a little bit more time,” said airport director Robert Kennedy.
Reopening the Brown Lot will add about 500 spaces to the number of city-owned parking slots at the airport. Located about a mile north of the terminal, the Brown Lot is accessible via a shuttle to and from the main terminal. At $11 per day, it is the most economical of airport lots and has been closed since spring 2020, after the coronavirus pandemic brought air travel to a near standstill.
Kennedy said the lot was being resurfaced and repainted this month and would reopen in early May.
But that’s not soon enough for the thousands of spring break travelers who have been shut out of airport parking in recent weeks. On numerous days over the past several weeks, all city-owned lots have been full; private lots on Snow Road have been at or near capacity, as well.
Kennedy said the airport is approaching 2019 numbers, the year before the pandemic decimated air travel.
March 2022 passenger numbers were 91% of March 2019, when 856,060 travelers passed through the airport. Several days in March exceeded numbers for 2019, he said, including March 25, when 32,000 people passed through the airport – the most since Oct. 25, 2019.
And travelers are getting to the airport differently, he said, which is putting more demand on on-site parking.
In 2019, ride-share companies, including Uber and Lyft, made approximately 44,000 trips per month to the airport, he said. In 2022, that number is about 26,000, a 40% reduction attributed to fewer ride-share drivers, higher costs and a general reluctance to share space with strangers, caused by the pandemic.
“That’s creating greater demand for parking,” he said. “We thought people would go back to 2019 habits, and they’re not.”
The Brown Lot is one of five city-owned parking areas at the airport, which also operates the Red, Blue and Orange lots, plus the Smart Garage, for a combined 6,350 spaces. All but the Brown Lot are within walking distance of the terminal, with prices ranging from $15-$20 per day (for availability: clevelandairport.com)
Approximately 200 spots are currently roped off in the Smart Garage, which will undergo major repairs later this year. Those spaces aren’t expected to be available until late 2022, according to Kennedy.
In addition, a small surface lot adjacent to the Smart Garage has been converted to an employee-only lot, now called the Yellow Lot.
It used to be a favorite parking area for frequent flyer Peter Prusak, who thinks it should revert back to being a revenue-generating space. He said it was popular with business travelers who liked its easy access to the terminal.
According to his calculations, the city is giving up as much as $900,000 in annual revenue by converting the lot to employees-only. “We need to make this airport business-friendly again,” said Prusak, of Cleveland, who travels regularly for work. “Why are they allowing this?”
Kennedy said that the lot was converted to employees-only when the Ground Transportation Center was relocated to the area just outside baggage claim, north of the terminal. Many employees had been parking in that area, he said.
While a majority of airport employees park in an off-site lot and take a shuttle to the terminal, some employees need closer access, he said. He acknowledged that the airport was giving up revenue, but said there was an operational need for the space.
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