Airport to offer more employee parking after tight spaces lead to damage, complaints

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Douglas International Airport will offer additional parking options to employees after workers complained about an abundance of compact spaces in Employee Lot 2. Prior to the pandemic, the tight squeeze in spaces led to employees having to crawl out of their windows, sunroofs and trunks to get in and out of vehicles.

During COVID-19, the airport temporarily allowed workers to park closer to the terminal. On May 12, they must transition back to the old setup.

At the Charlotte City Council meeting Monday night, numerous employees signed up to express their concerns about the situation. Prior to their comments, Brent Cagle, special assistant to the city manager, announced the airport will allow employees to park in the Express Deck and Business Valet 2, which would free up 1,500 spots and eases the burden of Employee Lot 2.

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Flight attendant Jeff Reisberg said he would like to see the compact spaces widened. He estimated between 30%-40% of the spaces in Employee Lot 2 are meant for smaller cars.

“They haven’t fixed anything. So we’re going to be going right back to crawling out the trunk going the sunroof out the passenger side,” he said. “We’re putting our lives on the line to come to work. And they get to their car after a long day, only to find dents in it, or they’ve got to climb in through the other side.”

Cagle told the council an estimated 25% of spaces are compact. He said widening the smaller spaces is not planned at this time and that the tight squeeze can partially be blamed on larger cars using the smaller spots and “bad parking.”

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“We do rely on employees to park their cars within the boundaries of the spaces, and we rely on employees who do not drive compact vehicles to not park in a compact space,” he said. “A lot of the issues that occur are from oversized vehicles parking in a compact space, or, for lack of a better term, bad parking. Someone who, who parks on the line takes up more than one space.”

The addition of two lots for employees is a permanent change, Cagle said. Close to 1,000 employees have signed a petition asking for the parking situation to change, according to Reisberg.

Statement from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport:

“The aviation department continues to work very closely with the airlines and our partners on employee parking and operation decisions regarding employee parking, as it is an employee-paid benefit (paid by their employer-not the aviation department).

“As you may recall, the aviation department conducted a comprehensive review in 2019 of employee parking spaces and found parking spaces in the standard parking configuration. Employee Parking Lot 2 was designed for the standard parking configuration with spaces of 8 to 9 feet in width. The lot has been in this configuration since it opened (initially as public parking) in 2014 and a portion of it opened to employee parking in 2017. The lot markings were refreshed in March and April of 2019. With the exception of 12 additional ADA spaces that were added, there were no changes to the size or width of the parking spaces throughout the lot when those markings were refreshed. The Airport will not be making any changes to the size of the parking spaces in the lots. We will however be making additional spaces available in one of our parking decks for some employees in order to meet current and future parking demand for employees.

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“In regards to parking, for your awareness, when we entered into the pandemic last year, the aviation department and airline partners worked on a plan to temporarily adjust and consolidate our parking operation to move tenant employees from the employee lots on Old Dowd Road to the Daily Parking Decks. This reduced operating costs, which was extremely helpful for all of our tenants facing tremendous financial challenges from Covid-19 impacts, and allowed employees to walk to the terminal, a requested health and safety benefit.

“A year later, the airport is experiencing increased demand for public and employee parking as passengers and airline employees return to air travel. In partnership with the airlines and tenants, effective, May 12, 2021, tenant employees will return to pre-pandemic parking in the employee lots. In addition, the aviation department, with support from the airlines, is expanding employee parking availability into Express Deck 2 (formerly Business Valet). Non-daily parking employees will be able to utilize this employer-paid benefit parking option as directed by the company for which they work. This assists in meeting current and future demand for employee parking, as well as maintaining a consistent bus operation for the employee lots as we continue to recover from the pandemic effects.”