Letter: Airport is committed to responsibly managing growth

Graphic by Lori Deaton

[In response to the letter, “Urge Change in Airport Parking Choices,” June 13, Xpress:] The airport is growing quickly and in big leaps. We have experienced four consecutive years of record growth, and recently, we were designated as the second-fastest growing small hub airport in America. So first and foremost, I would like to thank our region’s travelers for choosing to “fly local.”

With growth comes some “growing pains.” One such area has been in the parking options available at the airport. The airport has been constrained in our parking lots for several years, and in response, the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority Board accelerated a plan to construct a five-level parking garage.

The new garage added approximately 400 parking spaces for public use and allowed us to close a portion of our overflow lot at the southernmost end of our parking area — an area that was the cause of the majority of our passenger experience complaints for several years.

Specifically, for several years, we heard consistent complaints from travelers about the overflow lot, due to its location “down the hill” with no shuttle service. Travelers were dissatisfied with the uphill, uncovered walk to the terminal. They also did not like arriving at night and walking that distance to their vehicles.

We only utilized that overflow lot for a few years as we planned for a renewed parking program that would achieve several objectives:
• Increase the available parking spaces at the airport to accommodate growth now and into the future.
• Preserve choice for passengers.
• Ensure that parking options are easy, convenient and that we have a covered, lighted option to better meet the needs of travelers.

Our new parking program now has three tiers of options rather than two. We have preserved nearly all of the long-term parking spaces (approximately 700) and grown our overall capacity by 400 spaces (a total of 1,900 public spaces are being offered). And, we have eliminated the source of most of our parking complaints by decommissioning the overflow lot.

It is important to note that the overflow lot was never operated and maintained as a regularly opened parking lot. It has only been in frequent use in recent years, as we have worked to build additional parking options. This area has been slated for development, which is part of the airport’s future plan.

What many don’t realize is that airports are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate self-sufficiently. In other words, we must operate as a business. The airport does not receive any tax funding. Construction or operation of parking facilities are not eligible for FAA grant funding, so airports are responsible for funding construction of parking facilities. So, our business plan to operate three differently priced parking options is what was needed to move forward with the large capital expense of constructing the garage. Also, by designating the former overflow lot as an area for development, we have the potential to implement a diversified revenue-generator for the airport to support operations. Again, this is part of the airport’s master plan to respond to growth, market conditions and the requirement to operate self-sufficiently.

We are listening to feedback — both positive and negative — about the new parking program. In response, some changes are coming that we hope will help enhance the positive passenger experience at AVL. We will be installing an automated car counting system that will communicate the number of available parking spaces available in our lots at any given time. In addition, we also are improving our signage based upon customer feedback to help passengers better understand their options.

The airport board and management team are committed to managing the exciting growth as responsibly and efficiently as possible. We appreciate feedback, and again, I thank our community for using their local airport.

— Lew S. Bleiweis
Executive Director
Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority
Asheville

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6 thoughts on “Letter: Airport is committed to responsibly managing growth

  1. boatrocker

    Sounds like a sponsored internet ad to me.
    Like Zuckerberg doesn’t mine for data for your social media addiction.
    Like cops are your childrens’ friends and only want to help.
    Like corporations create jobs.

  2. Jon

    Mr. Bleiweis’ response does not address the original letter writers point that an $8/day option is shown on signs, but then a traveler is given no option other than the $13/day garage. I personally never minded the uncovered walk to the lower lot, since it meant that I could save significantly on parking. While the garage is a welcome addition in terms of capacity, the lots are still quite full. From the perspective of a regular user of the Asheville Airport, I don’t think things are nearly as well-in-hand as this letter paints them.

  3. Richard B.

    About two months ago we experienced what Jon has described above, and we have since driven to CLT three times to avoid the scam that is occurring. Obviously, we are causing ourselves more inconvenience and expense, given the distance to Charlotte vs 20 miles to AVL. However, it comes down to “standing on principle”. We use the airport probably 4-6 times a year, usually parking in one of the lower lots.
    On the occasion two months ago, we quickly saw the upper lots were full, noticed that the new garage was open, and drove on to one of the lower lots, as we have done so many times previously.

    Alas, they were both closed! I am guessing, but would estimate that, between the two lots, there are about 300-400 spaces.
    So we turned around and approached the garage, and immediately understood what was happening. The daily rate is $13, nearly twice the usual rate. CLT is still only $7 for long term. There was no obvious reason, no construction under way, that would have explained why the lower lots were closed.

    We were irate. It is obvious that the Board had made the decision to get the garage paid off as soon as possible, to retire the bond, by CLOSING available lots, and FORCING AVL customers to help pay for the new structure.
    This is beyond reprehensible. I know that Mr. Bleiweis is following the mandates of the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority Board, but one wonders who came up with this nifty way to pay down the bond, and where were the more principled folks involved in the decision?

    Below are the names of the Board members. A few are quite familiar to Asheville and Buncombe County residents. All are accomplished, management experienced folks, including a former pilot who was all about getting the people safely to their destination. But now, the emphasis appears to be to extort AVL customers who are looking forward to a week or two of cruising, visiting family, or touring, only to realize their ONLY choice is to fork over $91 for every week they are away, upon their return. There IS NO recourse. Except, of course, to do as we have decided to do, drive to GSP or CLT. Just outrageous.

    I am a fair minded citizen. I would hope that there is a rational explanation for the Board’s deceitful actions, a shake down really of the citizens of this area who have been regular consumers of AVL’s convenience. I only ask for transparency and an explanation. Executive Director Bleiweis’s dutiful effort falls well short of this request.

    I have listed below the Board members, and the email address of the Board. This is public information, and I include it here only for convenience and to encourage fellow AVL users to simply get answers to fair questions. I also include the Vision and Mission statements, which simply underscore the apparent discrepancy between the Board’s actions and their management goals.

    OUR VISION
    To be a champion for exceptional customer experiences and economic vitality.
    OUR MISSION
    To provide an exceptional airport experience with a focus on people, service, commercial and general aviation, and to contribute to the regional economy.
    OUR CORE VALUES
    People | Caring | Excellence | Integrity | Respect | Service | Adaptability

    Bob Roberts
    Chair
    Appointed by: City of Asheville
    K. Ray Bailey
    Member
    Appointed by: Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority Board
    Stephanie Pace Brown
    Member
    Appointed by: City of Asheville
    Matthew Burril
    Vice Chair
    Appointed by: Buncombe County
    William L. Moyer
    Member
    Appointed by: Henderson County
    George Erwin, Jr.
    Member
    Appointed by: Henderson County
    David Gantt
    Member
    Appointed by: Buncombe County

    avlboard@flyavl.com

  4. Jason

    Why not just charge $13 for all lots? Problem solved.

    Why not just take a cab, Uber or Lyft for $10? Then take another one when you leave. You don’t have to take your car to the airport. OR, get a ride from a friend, family member or neighbor. This really isn’t that hard.

    • Richard B.

      You are no help, Jason.
      I will guess that you live within hailing distance of the airport ($10 will not get you very far for a cab).
      It costs at least $35 for Uber from Black Mt., not that far away, and about $15-$20 more for a cab. Round trip $80-$100.
      If we go for 5 days, it would, in the recent past, cost us $35 to park at the airport.
      Not thinking about all the folks who use the airport who live in Madison, Henderson, Yancey, Haywood, etc., etc., counties, are you Jason.

      Also Jason, read more carefully. The issue is not whether to drive or Uber it to the airport. The issue is that the Airport Authority Board made a decision to close off available parking lots, at $7-$8 a day, for the sole reason of forcing folks to use the garage. Where is your sense of right and wrong? Boy, are you ripe pickens for a used car salesman to get into your wallet.

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