Overnight parking at Columbia Regional could cost you money

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COLUMBIA - The free parking at Columbia Regional Airport is a highly-touted perk, but one city councilman proposed an overnight fee as a way to generate more revenue.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas tossed out the idea of a fee to earn money, especially with construction of the new terminal on the horizon. Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp told KOMU 8 News that Thomas is the only council member supporting the idea at the moment.

Rachel Hayden, like many other students in Columbia, uses the airport about 4 or 5 times a year and thinks the fee will have an impact on the number of people who park at the airport during trips back home.

"I choose coming here because it's closer to my house but also because parking is free. If the parking was the same amount of money, or even a little bit less than say St. Louis, I would start flying out of there," she said.

Columbia is one of the only cities in the SEC that doesn't charge for parking at the closest airport.

"We've been spoiled for so long not to have to pay here, now that they're saying we do, I feel like people are like 'why change something that's working?'" Hayden said.

Passengers feel the safety of the parking lot should be improved before any fee is put into place.

"I understand where it's coming from but I just prefer not to have to pay for it, especially since I don't see any cameras out there to watch my car while I'm gone," Alexandra Neuhalfen said.

Currently, American and United are the only airlines flying out of the Columbia airport, and the tickets are generally more expensive than flying out of St. Louis of Kansas City. 

Parking at Lambert Airport in St. Louis costs between $7 per day for economy parking and $23 per day for terminal parking garages. Parking a car overnight at KCI can range from $9 to $23 a day depending on how far away you are from the terminals.

Hayden would rather pay more for covered parking in St. Louis or Kansas City as opposed to paying for the Columbia parking lot, which isn't covered.

"If I'm going to have to pay to park anyway, I might as well get a cheaper airline ticket and the covered parking," she said.

Thomas' proposal would only call for charging people who want to park closer to the terminal for a shorter walk.