Landing next at TF Green: A parking price war?

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“Meet me at the Red Beam at Green.”

James Skeffington Jr. imagines such an invitation becoming commonplace with his plans for the airport parking garage his late father, James Skeffington, and his partners built in 1999, opening with its “parking for peanuts” campaign. The 1,540-space garage is less than 200 feet from the airport terminal. The New England Parking Company, a real estate investment company, managed by Skeffington, owns the garage.

The garage has been leased and operated by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation for the past 10 years. That lease ends today and, as of tomorrow, the garage reopens under the management of Propark America, which operates about 500 parking garages across the country and at least a dozen at airports.
The elephant poster is back and so is “parking for peanuts.” Red Beam is offering a grand opening special of $9.95 per day.

According to a company representative, the advertising tag line for Red Beam will be “onsite airport parking at offsite prices.” Skeffington observes Red Beam is the closest privately-owned garage to an airport terminal in the country.

Daily rates for parking at the airport are currently $28 in Garage A and $23 in Garage B. Although there is an online coupon for $16 a day in Garage A on the RIAC website and also a discount for weeklong outside parking, nothing beats the introductory $9.95 rate offered at Red Beam.

Could this be the battle cry for a parking war at Green Airport? If it is, neither side is yelling “charge,” at least for the moment.

Asked if RIAC will charge fees for accessing the terminal – there’s a covered walkway to the terminal – or whether there is an agreement, Skeffington pointed out that hotel vans are levied a fee for picking up and dropping off guests at the airport. He thought the same could apply to the garage, but he didn’t say definitively that there’s an agreement.

Asked the same question as whether RIAC sought to renew its lease or purchase the garage, RIAC spokesman Bill Fisher issued a statement Tuesday simply stating that the current lease would be expiring this Thursday.

Jonathan Savage, chair of the RIAC board, wished Skeffington well when reached Wednesday at the press event announcing Air Canada would start daily service to Toronto starting next May.

Mayor Scott Avedisian said he is pleased that RIAC didn’t end up buying the garage, as it would come off city rolls. He thought the Red Beam fares could lead to a price war, adding that he thinks competition is good and, in the long run, customers will be happy and the airport will benefit.

Parking revenues are a main funding stream, second to passenger airline fees for RIAC. According to the $57.3 million 2017 fiscal year budget, 26.3 percent of revenues, or $15 million, was generated from parking. Airlines accounted for $21.9 million in revenues, 38.2 percent.

RIAC has aggressively sought to preserve its parking base even to the point of buying out the competition. RIAC acquired LARS Parking, formerly Pre-Flight on Post Road, and is now seeking to sell the six-acre parcel adjacent to the Airport Connector with an easement prohibiting its use for airport parking.

Excluding the Red Beam garage, known also as Garage C, RIAC controls parking for 7,050 vehicles. While that is sufficient to meet current demands, it remains to be seen if it can accommodate the growth RIAC Iftikhar Ahmad, president and CEO, projects for Green. With the addition of five airlines providing a 25 percent increase seats to and from Green, Ahmad believes Green could become one of the fastest growing airports in the country.

In 2005, when it hit its peak annual traffic at 5.7 million passengers, Green was a medium-hub airport. It has since lost that designation, with annual traffic for 2016 at 3.7 million. Ahmad is looking to bring the traffic back with the introduction of low fare airlines and new destinations that have become efficiently operable with the extension of Runway 5-23 by more than 1,500 feet to 8,700 feet.

Skeffington sees the Red Beam as playing an integral role in making Green a model of customer convenience and satisfaction. He said he is pleased to team up with Propark because of the innovations and “entrepreneurship” they bring to the industry. As an example, he cited how customers will be able to reserve a space online prior to their trip, thus removing any of the hassle or guesswork on the day of departure. Other innovations being advanced by Propark include a vehicle scanning system that discounts prices for smaller cars and the presence of charging stations for electrical vehicles.

In a release Joe Coppola, managing partner for Propark, said the company is further refining its offerings with a planned February grand opening. He said the company has launched its mobile app and is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

“Visitors to T.F. Green may download the app and reserve their parking spot with us, which they can also do by accessing our website, www.redbeamgarage.com, by calling 860-803-8686 or via Email at redbeamgarage@propark.com.”

In a statement he said, “We are grateful to the Airport Corporation and SP Plus for their assistance in transitioning operations over so smoothly so that we can continue to provide T.F. Green Airport travelers with a great parking experience.”
Skeffington said he is looking for the Red Beam Garage to complement the services offered by Green’s airlines “with high service parking.”

As for the Red Beam, a distinctive characteristic of the garage, Skeffington said his father purposely wanted it to be visible from around the airport. Now Skeffington aims to play off the feature, lighting it at night and perhaps even changing its color for the occasion. It would be green, of course, on St. Patrick’s Day.

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