Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas wants to implement a parking fee at the Columbia Regional Airport to help support the city’s public transit system, which is facing imminent budget cuts.
Thomas said funding for the airport should be weaned off the transportation sales tax. He called the tax “regressive” and said it is funded mostly by poor residents who don’t actually use the airport. Business travelers could easily afford to pay a daily parking fee, which could reduce the airport’s reliance on the tax, he said.
This would free up more funding to support public transit, specifically the bus system, Thomas said.
Thomas is advocating for the idea after subscribers to his newsletter expressed their support for it.
In a newsletter sent Sunday, Thomas said he asked his 2,500 subscribers whether the city should implement an airport parking fee. He received 86 responses. Seventy percent of respondents supported the fee, 16 percent opposed it and 14 percent gave neutral answers.
Thomas also cited in the newsletter a Government Technology article that said parking fees make up 20 to 25 percent of U.S. airport revenue that doesn’t come from airlines.
On a typical night, Thomas said, 800 cars are parked in the Columbia airport parking lot, which is city real estate.
Taxi driver Robert Griffith, who was at the Columbia airport Monday, said he supports the proposed parking fee because it will benefit taxi drivers and ride-sharing services.
“Some people dump their cars here like it’s a storage lot,” Griffith said.
Thomas is considering a more scientific survey that would determine the optimal parking fee. He said he doesn’t want to discourage people from using the airport.
Thomas has represented Columbia’s Fourth Ward since 2013, and his original priorities for the city included improving the city’s bus system, according to previous Missourian reporting.
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