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Flying for spring break? Don’t count on Honolulu airport parking

If you’re traveling off­-island during the busy spring break period, you might want to consider getting dropped off at Honolulu airport instead of parking there due to a parking crunch, state officials said.

The state Department of Transportation reported that the airport’s three lots — with a total of 4,500 spaces — were at capacity Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We get close to reaching capacity on busy holidays and things like that, but it is somewhat rare to actually reach capacity,” said DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara. He added that some parking typically opens up after 3 p.m.

Besides lots of travel, airport construction projects and an uptick in electric vehicles, which park for free, are also factors.

On average, more than 54,000 people fly in and out of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport every day, Sakahara said.

“Some of our airport managers were speaking with some of the airlines and even the airlines did report that they are at capacity and planeloads have been more full this week,” he said.

Figures for this week’s travel were not immediately available, but the busy period has DOT urging travelers to allow extra time to get through security and to their gate.

Passengers also are allowed to use any of the nine available Transportation Security Administration checkpoints throughout the airport regardless of airline or gate.

Not all are open at the same time, with TSA deciding which ones to use and when.

A combination of factors has resulted in the parking shortage, meanwhile.

The state is building a new complex for rental car companies across from the United Airlines check-in, and while that is happening, those companies are using 895 parking spots in the Terminal 2 garage, Sakahara said. Those stalls, repurposed since November of 2015, are not among the 4,500 that are currently available, he said.

Another cause is the growing popularity of electric vehicles — which get to park for free. The usual daily cost is $18, airport rates show.

The conservative estimate is that between 10 and 20 percent of the airport’s parking is now used by electric vehicles, Sakahara said.

“It was initially implemented years ago when EVs were just getting started,” he said. “It was one of the perks to encourage people to buy alternative-fuel vehicles and try to get off fossil fuels.”

With electric vehicles getting more popular, more spots are being taken by airport and airline workers using them.

“It kind of puts us in a little bit of a conundrum,” Sakahara said, “because while the free parking is a very nice perk, it isn’t sustainable for the airports because as (electric vehicles) get more popular, more people are going to continue to park for free and we’re going to run into capacity issues more frequently like we’re seeing right now during busy travel periods.”

Another likely factor is that with Southwest Airlines entering the Hawaii market, even with just one route right now, the additional serv­ice “did spark a lot of interest from travelers, and it also served to lower prices on other airlines,” according to Sakahara.

“There seems to be more people traveling this spring break than previous spring breaks,” he said.

The 4,500 available parking spaces also reflects the temporary removal of 205 spots from the top level of the Terminal 2 parking garage while a solar system is installed over a new canopy, he said. Those stalls are expected to be available again at the end of the month.

It’s not uncommon during holiday periods to have two of the three parking structures reach capacity. This time, it’s all three, Sakahara said.

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