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A reserved spot at Logan: $300

Massport betting appeal to busy fliers will outweigh cost

(Correction: Because of incomplete information provided by Massport, a headline and story in Tuesday's Business section about a new reserved parking program at Logan Airport misstated the initial price for joining the program. Massport, which runs Logan, says that after paying a $200 start-up fee, participants will not be required to pay the program's $100 annual fee until the second and subsequent years they sign up for reserved parking.)

When Boston's Logan International Airport begins offering a reserved parking-space program this summer, officials expect to charge customers $200 to sign up, plus a $100 annual fee, and a $5 daily surcharge for the spaces, airport officials said yesterday.

Initially, the roughly 500 reserved spaces will be available only on the ground level of the Terminal B garage, but the program could expand next year to the central garage once construction there is completed, according to Jack Hemphill, airport business manager for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan.

Customers signing up for the ''Passport Gold" program won't get a specific parking space. But they'll be guaranteed access to the reserved parking area, which airport officials will be able to expand and contract as needed by moving signs and stanchions. Logan will become one of the only big US airports, aside from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental, to offer an airport-operated reserved parking program.

After extensive research that included focus groups of ''road warrior" frequent business travelers, Massport is counting on about 2,000 customers initially signing up. ''The message we get from business travelers is that time is money, and they're looking to minimize the amount of time they spend" at the airport looking for parking, Hemphill said.

Several frequent Logan travelers interviewed yesterday raved about the proposal. But some said it sounded far too expensive. Massport is still reviewing the fees, and it could change them before its board votes on the plan at its April 13 meeting, authority spokeswoman Danny Levy said.

''I would definitely pay for it," said Bret Cohen, a lawyer with Boston's Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo PC, who works out of offices in Boston and the Washington, D.C., area and regularly travels between Logan and Dulles International Airport. ''Today if you get there and there are no spots, or very few spots, you end up tooling around trying to find a spot, and you waste a lot of time. Anybody who knows me well knows I lack patience."

Ted Purcell, a Sudbury business-press publishing executive, agreed that ''being able to quickly locate a place to park that is convenient is more important than the cost," especially when his employer will cover it. ''I think the program will be quickly oversubscribed by frustrated Logan travelers like myself," Purcell said.

Neil Bergquist, a pharmaceutical industry consultant from Brighton who travels through Logan almost every week, said that ''as someone who just got herded to Economy Lot 6 last week as all of central parking was full, my initial response would be positive. But I would have to think about whether the cost would be worth it."

Some other frequent travelers said they think the fees are far too high, especially when they usually have good luck finding parking. Massport is adding 2,880 new spaces at the airport, to increase available spaces to 14,800, and expects the last new spaces to be done sometime this autumn. By next spring, another 1,500 spaces that are currently unavailable because of parking-deck renovation work will also be back.

''The extra cost per day is OK, but to charge to join the program is nuts," said Alan Gold, chief marketing officer for Avotus Corp., a Burlington- and Toronto-based telecommunications consulting firm. ''I will just leave for the airport that much earlier and get into Terminal B parking anyway."

Carl M. Rubin, a co-owner of Needham technology firm Monument Data Solutions LLC who flies almost weekly to Dulles, said, ''It doesn't seem to buy me much. I can now park closest to whichever terminal I am going to. Only when the garages are completely filled do I not have the choice."

Hemphill said in addition to concerns about central garage construction, starting reserved parking in Terminal B makes sense because it is a close walk to two prime road-warrior destinations: the US Airways New York and Washington, D.C., shuttles in Terminal B, and Delta Air Lines' shuttles in Terminal A.

A 2003 Massport survey found 32 percent of Logan passengers come to the airport in private cars, and 35 percent of them -- or 11 percent of all passengers -- park. Boston's Conservation Law Foundation and other environmental groups have questioned whether reserved parking would discourage people from using mass transit, but Hemphill said time-obsessed business travelers are ''a different class of passengers" from transit users and generally travel to the airport by private car, taxi, or limousine already.

Massport is also looking for new income to offset declining airline revenues and soaring energy prices. Parking generates roughly one-quarter of Logan's revenue, a projected $92.8 million this year, or more than $250,000 a day.

Peter J. Howe can be reached at howe@globe.com.

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