Cell phone parking lots, located within five minutes of major airport terminals, are intended to reduce airport congestion. Motorists coming to the airport for arriving passengers can go to one of the nearby lots to wait. Once the arriving party reaches the terminal sidewalk with luggage in hand, he or she calls the driver, and the waiting motorist can be curbside within minutes to quickly pick up the traveler and be on their way.
Since the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center in 2001, airport security has been a great concern. Cars are no longer allowed to linger outside terminals in loading zones, forcing motorists to circle the area again and again while waiting for arriving parties. This causes congestion and slow-moving traffic and encourages accidents.
In response, many people turned to their cell phones to avoid the problem. At the Philadelphia Airport, motorists began parking along an airport off-ramp waiting for calls from arriving passengers. Many received tickets, and the illegal practice made it difficult to police the airport and adjacent areas properly. At other airports across the U.S., motorists were using nearby hotel parking lots, gas stations, and mini-marts to wait for calls. Cell phone parking lots became a virtual necessity.
Designated lots make it easier for law enforcement to control and monitor areas surrounding airports. Moreover, airport traffic moves smoother, faster, and more efficiently, as people approaching the terminals already know their party is waiting. Motorists are able to get in and out quickly and easily, whether dropping parties off or picking them up. Some cell phone lots even provide a large-screen arrival board with flight schedules, delays, and landings. Motorists must stay in their cars, and some lots impose a one-hour time limit.
Cell phone parking lots have been in use since 2004. The pilot program launched in 13 airports, including the Los Angeles International Airport, the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the Houston Airport, and the Philadelphia Airport. People can find out if their local airport has one and where it is by calling the airport's information line or check online. Airports that do not have available space nearby might not have a designated lot.