Just because there’s been a pandemic and many people have been afraid to fly for almost a year doesn’t mean that Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) is resting on its laurels. 

The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority – the board that oversees the airport’s operations – has just approved $250,000 to update its popular short-term parking area used by those dropping off and picking up passengers. The airport will replace the individual meters at 200 parking spaces in short term parking near the terminal building with an automated pay system.  The goal is to make it easier for airport visitors to pay for short-term parking.

This move comes at a time when the airport already has a major long-term parking system overhaul underway.

It will take some time to complete the new short-term parking project, but Airport Authority members expect the final product to be well received by the public. Current estimates are that it will be completed by early 2022.

“Meters that are more than 30 years old will be replaced in the upper and lower terminal parking areas with pay stations that will accept electronic payment by chipped card or by mobile device application,” a Tuesday, Feb. 2 press release from the Airport Authority reads. “The pay stations will be conveniently located in all short-term parking areas.”

This week, PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker called the move “just another step in our continuous efforts to make flying easy for our passengers.”

PTIA, like airports around the country and the world, has been hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and airport leaders are looking for ways to make flying more hospitable as more flyers return to the airways.

The Airport Authority has directed staff to seek bids for the design, purchase, and installation of the new short term parking system. The parking improvements approved Tuesday represent the second phase of a two-part upgrade to the airport’s overall parking system that started about two years ago. 

At that time the authority began a complete overhaul of the airport’s long-term parking system, one that’s expected to cost about $2.4 million. That long-term parking system – called the Parking Access Revenue Control System or “PARCS” –  includes gates and “ticket spitters,” software that processes credit card payments and cameras that note license plate numbers for vehicle identification.  The new system uses the cameras connected with software to know exactly how long a vehicle has been in long-term parking and to charge the driver the correct amount.

The new long-term parking system is designed to make it easier for customers to pay for long-term parking – as well as make it more convenient for them to exit the airport.

Customers will be able to pay for long-term parking with chip cards or smartphone apps at pay-on-foot stations inside the airport terminal before they head out to the parking lots. Once customers are in their cars, the new system will recognize the ones who have already paid, allowing them to exit the airport through an automated gate without stopping at a pay booth.

The automated long-term parking system, which was first approved in early 2019, has been implemented in phases and is expected to be complete in about 10 months.