Nonstop Demand Drives Parking Up at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
About 100 people move to Austin, Texas every day, making it the fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the United States for the last eight years. The population growth has fueled demand at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA), which handled 15.8 million passengers in 2018, in spite of being built to accommodate just 11 million travelers annually.
ABIA ran out of available parking spaces —on-site and at both private parking lots nearby — the day after Christmas 2014
Earlier this year, the city completed Phase I one of an expansion that brings capacity up to 15 million passengers, with additional developments planned through 2040.
Providing sufficient parking at the airport has been an ongoing challenge. In fact, ABIA ran out of available parking spaces —on-site and at both private parking lots nearby — the day after Christmas 2014. The airport has since added to its parking options, including Park&Zoom, a 2,000-space covered parking facility that Scott Airport Parking opened on airport grounds in November 2016.
Park&Zoom offers a mix of reserved, valet and conventional drive-up parking. Valet parking, which includes VIP shuttle service and a discount on optional services including car wash, detailing, oil change, windshield chip repair and even laundry, has been especially popular. With demand continuing to grow, the company needed to find a way to cost-effectively increase the number of vehicles it could accommodate.
Instead of expanding outward, Park&Zoom decided to go vertical. It has ordered many parking lifts that are being installed in existing valet spots to double the number of vehicles each spot can accommodate at any given time. The patented hydraulic lifts made by Autostacker, a division of BendPak, fit in the footprint of the existing parking spots, so there is no need to incur the costs of a real estate expansion. To further maximize convenience and minimize installation costs, the lifts run off master power units, each of which operates up to 10 lifts at a time.
“After personally meeting with a number of parking lift manufacturers and traveling to various onsite lift installations, it became clear that the BendPak folks were looking to the future of auto lifts,” said Brad Scott, president, Scott Airport Parking, LLC. “They wanted to understand our particular use and make adjustments to their product to meet our needs – plus, their prices were very competitive.”
The PL-6SRX is an extra-wide model with variable-height locking positions that gives Park&Zoom valets the versatility to be ready to park anything: sedans, SUVs, sports cars and — it IS Texas, after all — pickup trucks. The no-column design means the lift’s upper platform is hindrance-free, providing plenty of door-opening room for wide vehicles. Below deck, the scissor assemblies’ unique asymmetric design affords additional door clearance that fast-moving valets appreciate because it makes entry and egress so much easier, with less worry about door dings. (Built-in rubber door protectors come standard, providing additional peace-of-mind.)
The PL-6SRX is fully collapsible, with a gradually sloping platform to reduce entry ramp height. The valet simply pulls the first vehicle on and parks, and then exits the vehicle and raises it using the simple push button controls mounted just aft of the lift platform. A second vehicle then can be parked under the first. At Park&Zoom’s request, Autostacker developed an Aft Control Kit to enable lift operation from behind the lift. The kit is now a standard product offering.
Protection from the Elements
Because they are installed in an outdoor environment, Park&Zoom made sure the lifts included several features to protect them from the environment. The lift structure – including the hydraulic scissor assemblies and corrugated deck sections – are 100 percent galvanized to prevent premature rust and corrosion for longer life and lower maintenance costs.
The master electric/hydraulic power unit and the lift control stations use NEMA-rated components to help better protect critical parts during inclement weather. A unique stainless steel enclosure was made for Park&Zoom to house the 10 hp, 3-phase master power unit that’s capable of delivering power to parallel rows of 10 lifts.
Growth Expected to Continue
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forecasts that the number of Americans taking to the sky will continue to grow by about 1.8 percent annually over the next 20 years. As more Americans choose to fly, airports will need to continue to explore options for parking the vehicles they leave behind. Lifts can double the number of vehicles that can be accommodated in a parking facility with much lower investment (of both time and money) than a traditional real estate expansion. They’re also an answer for landlocked airports. Appropriately, the solution to airport parking challenges may be to “look to the sky.”
Pat Weber is director of sales and business
development at Autostacker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.