Airport prepares to hike parking fees

As of Dec. 1, parking at the airport in Whitehorse is going to get a little pricier. The daily rate to park at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport is going up to $5, from $1.

As of Dec. 1, parking at the airport in Whitehorse is going to get a little pricier.

The daily rate to park at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport is going up to $5, from $1.50.

Officials are hoping that will help ease some pressure caused by rapidly-filling, super-cheap parking spots.

Things got so bad last Friday, at the beginning of Thanksgiving weekend, that the Department of Highways and Public Works advised people that the parking lot was full and to arrange to be dropped off instead.

The airport has about 500 spaces, plus overflow room.

“Part of the attraction of parking at the airport is that it is a negligible fee. It’s really nothing. You can park for a month and it’s cheaper than a cab ride, for the most part,” said Allan Nixon, Yukon’s assistant deputy minister for public works.

“That won’t be the case anymore. So we’re hopeful that will encourage people to get dropped off at the airport.”

The department began looking into the problem last May.

At the time, cars could be found in the parking lot that appeared to be abandoned. They had flat tires and expired plates. Others were stuffed full of belongings, making it look like vehicles were doubling as storage.

A handful of change out of your pocket each day is significantly cheaper than storage units you’ll find in town.

Even with the bump, Nixon says the prices in Whitehorse are low compared to other airports. The new price is a dollar an hour, up to $5 for a day.

“The first hour is still free. If you stayed six hours you’d pay five dollars, if you stayed 24 hours you’d pay five dollars.”

The airport is also doubling the number of day parking spots to 40, “just to give the people who are just coming to meet somebody easier access,” Nixon said.

Less than two per cent of the vehicles examined would actually be considered abandoned, Nixon said.

In January, airport officials did a sweep of the parking lot and found 50 vehicles with either expired plates or no plates at all.

By April, 18 of those vehicles were still there.

When the new rules start, vehicles that sit in the parking lot for longer than 30 days will be towed.

Introducing this new rule proved a little more complicated than expected.

The Yukon Motor Vehicle Act gives the authority to tow vehicles. But the required sign if you’re going to use that law, informing people of the risk, had to be approved by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, since the parking lot is on commissioner’s land, Nixon said.

“It was a bit more convoluted than we thought it would be,” Nixon said.

There are still a handful of steps that staff will have to follow to try and track down the owners, but that can now be done after the vehicles leave the parking lot, he said.

Airport guards already sweep the parking lot as part of their duties. They’ll now be keeping an eye out for vehicles that have been there too long.

Improvements to the gate are also being considered, Nixon said, possibly for some time in the future. The occasional driver has been known to simply drive over the grass, rather than pay at the toll booth.

“When you look at the statistics, the number of people that are trying to escape the parking lot, there’s occasions that happens but it’s not a high rate.”

For now, the department is starting up a public awareness campaign, including advertisements, to make sure everyone knows about the new rules.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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