The Hawaii Department of Transportation on Thursday urged travelers going to the Daniel K. Inouye Honolulu Airport to leave their cars at home and have someone drop them off as the parking structures are reaching capacity.
Timothy Sakahara, HDOT director of communications, recommended asking a friend or family member for a ride or to take a taxi, rideshare car or public transportation to the airport.
He said some schools are in their fall breaks this week, so the airport is much busier than on an average day.
Parking has recently become more limited at Honolulu airport, Sakahara said, because of the increase in both inter-island flights and electric vehicles.
Inter-island flights have increased with the entry of Southwest Airlines into the market. Electric vehicles can be parked at the airport for free instead of paying the standard $18 a day fee.
While electric vehicles make up 1% of all vehicles on the road, Sakahara noted they take up about 20% of the stalls at the airport. That means out of the 4,668 public parking stalls there, about 933 are taken up by electric vehicles.
Sakahara said while the department supports electric vehicles, “there is something that needs to be addressed or changed in terms of the free airport parking because when it is free, you see people parking for a lot longer than they might have.”
The free airport parking for electric vehicles stems from a law passed in 2012 that exempts electric vehicles from any state parking fees. Since the airport is run by the state, the law applies.
However, the law is set to expire on June 30, 2020.
“That is going to be something that I'm sure will be discussed at this next legislative session,” Sakahara said.
Sakahara doesn't think the airport's limited parking contributed to its 2019 ranking as the third worst in the country among large-sized airports in North America as determined in a study released last month by J.D. Power.
“Those rankings, you have to take with a grain of salt,” Sakahara said. “Where Hawaii got dinged was in the amount of construction people saw when they went to the airport. The construction is actually a sign of positive things.”
Airports across the state are undergoing a $3 billion modernization project.
At Honolulu airport, the revamped, consolidated rent-a-car facility construction rendered 745 stalls in the Terminal 2 parking lot temporarily unavailable.
But Sakahara said the construction is not the cause of the recent lack of stalls at Honolulu airport because the project began in 2014 and the parking issues began occurring around last year.
Once the consolidated rent-a-car facility construction is completed at the end of 2021, the public can again use the 745 stalls.
Sakahara says the garage is most crowded between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., on Fridays and during school holidays.
For those who drive to the airport and cannot find parking, Sakahara suggests trying the international parking garage, which is usually the least busy of the three.
“But if those three parking garages are filled, then unfortunately, that means we are at capacity, and people are going to have to figure another option out,” Sakahara said.
“Just like if people were going to a sporting event or concert, a lot of times the facilities just have a limited number of parking stalls available and that is also the case here.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story reported the parking law expires on July 30, 2020. It expired on June 30, 2020. HPR regrets the error.