Over EZ at the Houston Airports

A few days ago, Harris County Commissioners Court decided to end the option of using your EZ Tag to pay for airport parking. Expenses have exceeded revenues, as not enough people were opting to pay this way.

So far, the response seems to be What? I could pay for parking at the airport with my EZ Tag? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

I’ve parked and paid with EZ Tag, and love the option, so in the interest of preserving it, I present this list of ideas for a public education campaign to save EZ Tag parking at Houston airports. The campaign would be relatively low-cost because we know exactly where to go to hit the audience most likely to use the system.

  1. Post signs or banners at the entrance and exit from the city economy lots that tell people they can use EZ Tag to park.
  2. Hand a brochure or push card about the option to all drivers paying to exit the city economy lots along with their receipt.
  3. Advertise this option on posters inside the city economy lot buses.
  4. Run a full-page ad in the Houston Business Journal over the course of one or two months to target business travelers.
  5. Require all commissioners to include notice of this payment option in their precinct newsletters, both paper and electronic. Provide them with a design so that the content is uniform and reinforces the other campaign collateral, and so that their own staff doesn’t need to spend time designing or writing anything.
  6. Mail a well-designed postcard to all EZ Tag subscribers. You can probably do without this last option, but the list exists, and could be used. Email might work as well.

Once the campaign rolls out, evaluate participation after a 6-month period has passed. I have to think usage would shoot up if only people knew.

Now, the real issue might be city-county cooperation, because the CITY of Houston Department of Aviation operates the Houston Airport System, which operates Parking Cents, the city economy parking lots. The EZ Tag parking revenues, however, benefit the Harris COUNTY Toll Road Authority, an assumption I make since the Commissioners Court, which oversees HCTRA, is the body that voted to kill the program.

With revenue on the line, I can imagine there is more to the story on why costs are exceeding expenses than lack of awareness.

The equipment is in place and the people who already use it, love it. If this is a turf war over parking revenue, then we deserve to know that, and should ask our elected officials to get over their own bad selves and figure out a way to make this work for everyone.

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