Even with BART running to San Francisco International Airport and several private lots in nearby cities, travelers still clamor to park at the airport.
This year, it will be easier than ever, due to the recent opening of a new 3,109-space long-term lot, which has added substantially to the existing 1,100 surface spots and spaces in a smaller garage previously available, according to airport spokesman Mike McCarron.
The new garage means more options for travelers looking for cheap parking, and increased competition for the private lots surrounding the airport.
SFO consistently has an overflow of cars seeking spaces around the holidays, but long-term parking spaces were always guaranteed, McCarron said. The overflow of hundreds of cars, numbering between 500 and 600 during a weekend such as Thanksgiving, was diverted into the short-term lot.
The airport’s long-term parking spots typically fill up before noon on the Friday before a holiday weekend. The lot typically reopens briefly on Saturday morning, but fills up again until approximately Sunday night, McCarron said.
The airport is not the only option for travelers, however, and there are better bargains to be had. BART has also beefed up its own long-term parking availability this year, allowing an additional 225 long-term spots during the Thanksgiving weekend. Drivers can park for $5 daily at all East Bay stations except West Oakland, Coliseum/Oakland Airport and Lake Merritt, BART spokesman Jim Allison said.
While the increased availability of government-owned lots has made long-term parking easier and cheaper for most travelers, at least two private long-term lot operators say it has taken its toll on lots like theirs located in San Bruno, South San Francisco, Millbrae and Burlingame.
James Abeyta, manager of the 1,250-space Parking Company of America lot in South San Francisco, estimates business has gone down by 30 percent since the airport lot opened. Part of the problem, Abeyta said, is that the airport has the power to take over the best pick-up and drop-off spots, while moving the ones for private lots to more inaccessible areas.
Joe Galligan, owner of SkyPark in San Bruno, estimates that business has gone down by 10 percent to 20 percent since the airport lot opened in June. The airport, he says, does not have to pay taxes to the city in which it is located, nor does it have to pay an airport parking tax levied on private shuttles that pick up their customers on airport property.
SkyPark pays between $100,000 and $120,000 annually in airport parking taxes and another $500,000 annually to the city of San Bruno, Galligan said.
"It’s hard to be competitive when you’re competing with the airport," Galligan said.