Logan Airport Tries New Ways To Handle Overflow Parking

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Central Parking Garage attendants guide and register customers as they box in other cars already parked in assigned parking spots. The cars will be left where they are stopped until cars parked in assigned spots leave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Central Parking Garage attendants guide and register customers as they box in other cars already parked in assigned parking spots. The cars will be left where they are stopped until cars parked in assigned spots leave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Parking is always a challenge at Logan International Airport, especially during periods like this one when students get school vacation and parents take advantage of the opportunity to get out of town in the middle of winter.

Airport managers are looking to create more space, but in the meantime, they have to come up with some temporary solutions.

Steve Whetstone of Cohasset is a regular visitor to Logan Airport. He flies out of the airport at least once a month.

“I travel all around the country and even the world, and I know we pride ourselves on being different in Boston, but there’s no other city in the country where they have these kinds of problems with parking at an airport,” Whetstone said. “At least none that I’ve encountered.”

“I’ve probably been in every lot in the Logan Airport, including off-airport parking,” he said, but this time things were different. Instead of circling the fifth floor of Logan’s West Garage looking for a vacant parking spot, Whetstone parked his car in a single file line blocking in cars parked in designated spaces.

This week the garage has implemented their valet parking program to ensure that every passenger’s car gets parked. Even if it’s under the airport’s elevated roadways.

With overcrowded parking lots at Logan Airport, Massport has resorted to having valets park vehicles under overpasses around the airport, such as this one at the intersection of Hotel Drive and Service Road. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With overcrowded parking lots at Logan Airport, Massport has resorted to having valets park vehicles under overpasses around the airport, such as this one at the intersection of Hotel Drive and Service Road. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

And there are no signs that the parking situation is getting any better as the airport continues to add airline carriers and routes. Earlier this week TAP Portugal announced non-stop daily flights from Boston to Lisbon.

“We think we have the capacity to handle more planes, more passengers. Ironically, the big constraint is the lack of parking for people once they get here,” Tom Glynn, CEO of Massachusetts Port Authority, said. “We can get them on a plane, but can we get them a parking space?”

Glynn says Massport is currently holding discussions with environmental officials, regulatory authorities, neighborhood groups and elected officials about how they can add more parking spaces to the airport’s existing 2,400 acre property.

“We’re never going to do anything to expand the footprint of the airport,” Glynn said. “That would violate our relationship with the community of East Boston.”

So the plan is to build up for additional spaces by adding levels to existing parking garages and turning surface lots into garages.

“Back in the ’70s, we had 10,000 parking spaces and 10 million passengers and now we have 33 million passengers but only 18,000 spaces. So even if we added 5,000 spaces we would still have a gap,” Glynn said.

Back in the garage, the aisles quickly fill up with cars lining up to be valeted. A parking attendant approaches a vehicle and enters the traveler’s details, including when the driver is returning and on what airline, into a database. The car is then surveyed for damage. When the traveler returns, the car will be parked in a corresponding lot based on the information provided and the keys will be left at a kiosk with an attendant.

Central Parking Garage attendant Nicole Finnerty registers a parking customer into the system with a phone app. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Central Parking Garage attendant Nicole Finnerty registers a parking customer into the system with a phone app. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“I don’t like leaving my keys. I’m sure it will be fine, but I don’t like leaving my keys,” Lynn Mancini, of Worcester, says as she takes a suitcase out of her SUV before leaving her keys in the car. “I’ve only parked at Logan two or three times and it’s always a problem here, so I guess I’m not surprised.”

Massport encourages people to use the Logan Express shuttle service and public transportation to avoid parking woes. As an added incentive, the Logan Express shuttle is discounted during peak travel days.

Glynn, Massport’s CEO, says conversations with stakeholders will take some time and he does not expect to have an approved plan to add more parking until early next year.

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