There is a nice article in the NYT about rental car consolidated locations at airports. Read it here. There’s a pretty picture and everything.
I have mixed emotions about these places. They take the “service” component out of the rental car business. I like my guys (I use Budget) because they usually have a lot of buses and I don’t have to wait long in front of the terminal in freezing snow (Chicago) or blazing heat (Miami). I just think its part of the business. If you do a good job with the vans, the rest follows.
However I also see the airport’s side. If we could get 50 rental car vans out of the loop (like at BWI or Phoenix) and just have a few giant buses going around, it does reduce the traffic. However, I have a much better idea.
Put the rental car location on the airport within walking distance of the gates. Like in Seattle or Midway in Chicago, for instance. I just walk out of the terminal, across a bridge, and then get my car and drive away. When I return, I don’t have to worry about being late or the “just missing” the rental van. I just walk over to the terminal and I’m off.
Of course this doesn’t work in many airports, like JFK where the terminals are miles apart and there would have to be a rental car agency from each company for each one.
The article notes they are planning to build a consolidated rental car facility at LAX is costing nearly a Billion dollars. The Airport says that due to state mandates, they can’t charge the rental car companies enough to pay the bill, and are looking for taxpayer money to fund the project. WOW!
Here’s what I would do. I would privatize the entire thing. I would have someone with some deep pockets come in and build the project, but make it a bit larger than required, and put a thousand or so spaces on the roof. They did something similar to this in Anchorage (Privatized but no parking) and it seems to work out well. Then they can become an “off airport” parking operation, too, and use the money from the parking to help fund the project. The airport could help by closing some of their long term lots and feeding cars to the off airport operations around the airport, including this one.
My guess is, however, that the airport would rather the taxpayers foot the bill because my solution is going to mean that they will have to lose some good parking revenue. Still…it seems like a small price to pay to cut traffic around the terminals, make it easier for people coming and going, and upgrading the quality of service at our third busiest airport.