News Article - February 23 2006

A.C. airport to take note of car plates, collect data

  — Atlantic City International Airport customers may want to use those James Bond cars — the ones with license plates that rotate to confuse pursuing spies — when they park at the facility here. That's because the South Jersey Transportation Authority, or SJTA, which operates the airport, will soon start taking down license plate numbers as part of a project to better determine the airport's customer base. License plate numbers will be turned over to the state Motor Vehicle Commission, or MVC, which will give SJTA a list of corresponding ZIP codes. SJTA will use the ZIP codes to figure out where the cars — and presumably their drivers — come from. SJTA also has received approval to track license plate numbers at Philadelphia International Airport parking lots.

   SJTA and MVC officials say no personal information — such as names and addresses — will be exchanged. MVC officials also said the process won't result in authorities tracking down anyone for motor vehicle violations, as the only information produced by the project's special computer program will be ZIP codes. SJTA spokeswoman Sharon Gordon said the main goal is for the agency to improve its marketing to potential customers. Better defining the airport's customer base can help convince various airlines of potential demand for service at Atlantic City International, she said. Some SJTA officials are confident of the project's outcome.

   “As long as there are seats available, we should be able to fill them,” said James Iannone, the SJTA's acting executive director. Iannone said the recent decisions by Spirit Airlines to resume service between Atlantic City International and Detroit and Delta Air Lines to begin service between the airport and Atlanta are significant indicators of customer demand at the underused facility. SJTA has been trying for years to bolster Atlantic City International's customer base. It generally considers that base to be all of southern New Jersey, the region around the Garden State Parkway through Monmouth County, and parts of Delaware. Meanwhile, Philadelphia International is developing a study needed for the airport to increase its flight capacity.

   Before that study is complete, SJTA will compile statistics showing how many people living in Atlantic City International's customer base take flights out of Philadelphia International. The SJTA could use those statistics to convince officials at Philadelphia International and the airlines it serves to divert an appropriate number of flights to Atlantic City International. If successful, SJTA officials believe it would not only help ease flight-capacity problems at Philadelphia International, but also would be a major step toward making Atlantic City International a bigger player in the regional airline market. According to Gordon, SJTA plans on tracking license plates several times each quarter. The plates will be tracked with hand-held scanners workers use while walking through Atlantic City International's parking lots, she said. “We would probably do it on various days to indicate low travel times and peak travel times,” she said. The information would be reviewed quarterly, Gordon said.

   MVC spokesman David Weinstein said the agency shares information on its databases with state government entities. What can and can't be disclosed is covered in the state's Driver Privacy and Protection Act, he said. Weinstein said MVC's agreement with SJTA forbids SJTA from using MVC information to build databases or solicit customers — something that couldn't happen because SJTA will only receive ZIP codes. Weinstein said he couldn't say whether other government entities have use of MVC information for marketing purposes.

Source - Press of Atlantic City