Congested pick-up areas causing problems at Hartsfield-Jackson

Hartsfield-Jackson to provide parking renewal project progress, impacts

Hartsfield-Jackson to provide parking renewal project progress, impacts

Parking deck construction at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is driving congestion in some pick-up areas — and causing headaches for travelers — prompting officials to search for fixes.

The root of the issue stems from a huge, multi-year project to fortify and eventually to replace aging decks at the world’s busiest airport.

The airport last month began blocking off large swaths of the Terminal North parking deck and on Feb. 21 relocated pickups by off-airport parking shuttles to the Uber and Lyft pickup area near Terminal North parking.

But the Uber and Lyft pickup zone was already congested during busy periods, and airport officials acknowledge that adding parking shuttle pickups to the same area has added to the problems.

A number of issues drive the congestion, according to Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Balram Bheodari. Among them are that Uber and Lyft drivers are parking there and waiting, rejecting some rides for more lucrative and longer rides. Another persistent issue has been unauthorized drivers soliciting customers.

Curbside drop-offs and pickups by friends and family, commercial shuttles, Uber and Lyft rides and other traffic are all squeezed onto “a limited footprint” outside the bustling terminal, Bheodari said.

The situation has been exacerbated by the parking deck construction, which started on the Terminal South deck last year and shifted to the Terminal North deck this year. In addition to taking about 2,500 parking deck spaces out of commission at a time, the construction also requires detours and relocation of gold reserve parking and the off-airport parking pickups.

That has made the congestion problems even more painful. As a result, “we’re going to tweak the operation,” Bheodari said.

Those tweaks will involve redirecting off-airport parking pickups in the weeks ahead, something travelers should prepare for.

The airport on Thursday is moving off-airport parking shuttle pickups back to the lower level curbside, and on April 17 will move them to the outer curb of the Terminal North upper level.

Bheodari hopes that will reduce stress levels.

Still, airport construction work — and the accompanying hassles — will continue in some form for the foreseeable future. Work to eventually demolish and replace the aging parking decks will take years, with a project starting this fall to build a new South deck to replace some parking during the reconstruction work.

Inside the domestic terminal, work on ceilings is underway around the terminal. Construction of an extension of the Plane Train tunnel continues, along with escalator and elevator construction that requires detours for arriving passengers taking the Plane Train during late-night hours.