Dealing with illegally-parked or abandoned vehicles has been an ongoing problem for the state operations crew at the airport, who have no enforcement authority. For the public, the primary issue is the shortage of long-term parking (68 spaces). The DOT’s Sam Dapcevich anticipates that a private management system would “reevaluate and adjust long-term versus short-term parking on demand.” (ADOT image)

Paid parking is coming to Sitka’s Rocky Gutierrez Airport, possibly as soon as April.

The Alaska Department of Transportation has issued a request for proposals for a parking management company to “remedy parking issues” at the airport.

DOT spokesperson Sam Dapcevich says parking in Sitka has been a headache for the state for some time.

“Well, our maintenance and operations crew, the amount of time that they’ve had to spend dealing with either illegally parked or abandoned vehicles over the years has increased,” Dapcevich explained. “They’re not really tasked with enforcement for parking. And so we’ve had discussions with the city about it. And we’ve come to a point where we needed to make a decision. That’s how we came out with this RFP (Request for Proposals) to seek a parking management company.”

The city is involved in the conversation because it owns the terminal building – but the parking lot, the runway, and ramp areas are all owned by the state.

Paid airport parking by no means is a new thing in Alaska’s largest cities, but a relatively new addition to smaller towns. Just last December, Petersburg implemented a paid parking system that could be a model for Sitka’s.

“A private company, locally owned in Petersburg came forward and leased land from the state, and they’re managing the parking there,” said Dapcevich. “It’s kind of interesting, theirs is managed primarily through a website and an app. So people pay and I believe they register with their license plate, and they’re able to leave their car there, and the company manages it that way.” 

The parking fees in Petersburg are modest: the first hour is free, then it’s a dollar-per-hour for 2-6 hours of parking. One to six days is $7 per day, and it’s $35 per week. There’s no booth or parking attendant in Petersburg: users download an app and scan a QR code in their parking space, or pay at a website.

But there’s one big difference between the airports in Sitka and in Petersburg. Not everyone spending time at the airport in Sitka is getting on or off a plane. Dapcevich says the department has crowdsourced a plan to manage patrons of the Nugget restaurant.

“We announced this on social media,” said Dapcevich. “And some of the suggestions we saw were a grace period, which we kind of expect. There’s typically a grace period, so that people can take care of business without having to pay if it’s picking someone up or dropping someone off or whatever. So there could be a one hour grace period potentially. The other thing that we’ve seen suggested is — and I remember doing this at the Juneau airport years ago — to validate your parking if you went in and ate at the restaurant. So that may be an option, to have validated parking.”

Since technology has really lowered the barriers to developing paid parking in Sitka, the state thinks a vendor could be in place by April – in less than two months. In the meantime, Dapcevich says Sitkans can ease some of the problems at the airport right now, especially by not leaving unattended vehicles in the active loading zone in front of the terminal doors.