Airports Revenues Must Adapt to New Transportation Technologies

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Early this spring reports began to emerge from some airports that fewer travelers were choosing to park vehicles at airport lots and garages. At Dallas/Fort Worth airport, parking revenues were forecast to be $10 million short this year, in part due to more people using services like Uber and Lyft to get to the airport. Airports have become increasingly reliant on revenues from parking and rental car concessions, often using the funds to support continued operations, new projects and to support bond ratings crucial for the healthy financing of future projects. Today, airports across the nation rely on these revenues to fund capital improvements and operating expenses not covered by agreements with airlines.

Non-aeronautical revenue for U.S. airports grew more than 4 percent between 2004 and 2013, according to the Airports International Council, compared to a 1.3 percent growth rate in passenger enplanement. Parking, rental cars and terminal concessions are the three main sources of non-aeronautical revenue for US airports, accounting for 45 percent of total revenue in 2013.

Clearly, anything that disrupts the flow of airport funding from parking and rental car revenues puts airports in a financially precarious position. Ford hopes to deploy a fleet of self-driving ride-hailing service in 2021, and Uber has already piloted self-driving transportation services in several states.

A service offering self-driving cars on demand would eliminate the need for car owners to maintain vehicles, or sacrifice productivity while they pay attention to the road. Self-driving cars could be in use, earning revenue, almost 24 hours a day. They would also erode the need for parking everywhere, and a major threat to airport revenues will emerge.

An increased number of personal autos at the curb might significantly increase congestion at airports — triggering lane access limitations, or a reconfiguration of airport traffic patterns.

City councils, state departments of transportation and the federal government will likely be wrestling with the impacts of self-driving cars elsewhere in the transportation system.

Airport entities that must begin developing plans to adjust to new transport technologies include:

It will be vital for airports to take special care in how they gather and analyze parking and rental car statistics, air passenger demographics, broad economic trends, and the evolving price-competitiveness of all options available for airport ground transportation.

Perhaps most important for airports that already depend on parking revenues will be an aggressive analysis of new funding sources.

Collected and summarized from the source below by Minh Pham