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No more free parking

Drivers will pay to leave cars at Yellowknife Airport

Thorunn Howatt
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 14/02) - It's tough to find parking at the Yellowknife airport these days, but management has a solution: drivers have to pay to leave vehicles at the airport for long periods of time.

"The driving principle behind all of this is not to get additional funds," said Yellowknife Airport manager Michel Lafrance.

"It is to manage a system so that parking is available for people who use the airport."

Airport management hopes that some people will take cabs or public transit to the airport.

There were times during this summer when there was little parking available at the airport.

Drivers who were there to pick up or drop off a passenger were having problems finding a spot.

Some people were leaving vehicles parked for weeks on end because there was no charge.

"We are now re-implementing a parking management system at the airport," said airport operations manager Leo Reedyk. "We envision that we will have only half as many people parked out here."

The Yellowknife Airport falls under the Government of the Northwest Territories' umbrella.

Parking will still be free for the first day in the new system but after that it will cost $6 a day to leave a vehicle.

Drivers will pick up a ticket when they come onto the lot and meet with a pay-station security booth when exiting.

The booth will be staffed by employees from a company already contracted to do airport security.

Airport management had to make a decision to either expand the lot -- to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- or find a way to encourage people to leave their cars at home during extended trips.

"People will come to the conclusion that rather than leave their vehicle parked at the airport for a month and a half, it is going to be cheaper to take a taxi or have somebody drop them off," said Reedyk, who also hopes the new plan will help pay for some parking lot expenses.

"Parking lot lights are on when it's dark out. We remove snow from the lot all winter long," said Reedyk, who explained that cash is the secondary issue.

"There is a transition period we need to go through," said Reedyk, who added that some cars have been on the lot for a month and might be unpleasantly surprised by the new system when they leave.

There used to be a paid parking system in place. Drivers had to pay to park in the airport lot from 1988 until about 18 months ago.

Under the old system there were three ticket vending machines, located in different areas. But the system didn't work well.

Not many people were using the lot for more than a day back then and the machines were expensive to keep up. It cost more than $30,000 per year to maintain the paid-parking lot.

That was about the same amount of money the system was bringing in. So while airport authorities looked for a new system, Yellowknifers enjoyed free parking.