Officials at the Redmond airport raised prices on daily parking five years ago. Now, they want to do it again, raising the daily fee from $15 to $24 per day. It's the same price someone would pay to park daily at Portland International Airport, they pointed out – even though we all know that the experience varies greatly.
At PDX, one can pay $24 to park there, or they can opt to hop on the light rail and get nearly anywhere in the metro area in a reasonable amount of time. They can also take a bus. They'll also park their vehicle in a covered area that keeps it safer from the elements. There are also private parking stalls close to the airport that cost far less than $24.
Here at the Redmond airport, those coming from Bend or parts elsewhere have none of those options. Airport officials told the Redmond City Council, who may vote on the issue at the end of March, that increasing the fees would help them pay for the expansion of the airport facilities, which gets underway next year. Parking is a real cash cow, even for a facility that traffics in air travel.
Cab companies like this idea too, because it means they can increase the number of rides – to the tune of some $50 or $60 one-way to Bend. While we admit there's an element of privilege in bringing up the pain of paying such high fees for parking or cabbing it to the airport, which many people use for leisure or business travel, it does remind us once again that we are not Portland – we just pay the prices big-city dwellers pay for less-than-big-city amenities.
If we're going to pay those prices, we should at least invest some of the money into alternatives that would reduce the number of cars left at the airport, and cut down on general traffic near the airport, too. Eventually, our growing region will outgrow the parking facilities that presently exist at the airport – or the ones that are planned for the near future. Then it's back to begging for more cash — or passing the cost on to travelers — for more pavement.
But those of us who resent not having a non-car option to get to the airport, or resent paying those big-city prices should take some comfort in the fact that, hopefully, if all goes to plan, there will soon be an alternative.
Over at Cascades East Transit, officials have been working for years to usher in a city-to-city route, using either existing or new routes, that picks up and drops off at the Redmond airport. Soon, hopefully, CET may have enough drivers trained to make that route a reality by the fall. (Wages and housing have been among the barriers to hiring thus far, they told us in a podcast recorded last summer.) Mind you, if the Redmond City Council approves the parking increase, it would go into effect as early as May.
While we understand that CET is a different entity with a different budget than the City of Redmond, it makes sense to have these two entities work together. Since parking fees are like crack cocaine for anyone who begins to implement them, we doubt the City of Redmond is going to nix this plan to increase fees at the airport. But would it be too much to ask to see them delay the increase until a bus between the area's largest city – Bend – and the airport is in place?
Not only would this alleviate parking congestion at the airport, it might also help decrease traffic on Highway 97, and cut down on vehicle emissions to boot. Those who oppose an increase in parking fees at the airport would do well to support this alternative in any way they can.