San Francisco to Open 'Plaza' for Rental Cars

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BY JENNIFER DORSEY

CHICAGO -- San Francisco Airport plans in mid-1998 to open a car rental "plaza" that will mean some changes for car rental firms and their customers there.

The plaza, a multilevel facility to be located in an area previously used as a long-term parking lot, will consolidate on-airport car rental suppliers into a single location.

Thrifty, Alamo and Enterprise, currently serving airport customers from off-site locations, will move into the plaza, an airport spokesman said.

They will be joining current on-airport operators Hertz, Avis, National, Budget and Dollar, he said.

The change will be "transparent" to the customer, an Alamo spokesman said.

A light-rail passenger transportation system will connect the plaza to the rest of the airport, but not until 2000.

In the interim, passengers will be shuttled between the terminal and rental car plaza in airport buses serving as a common transport for customers of all the rental car companies.

From the airport's perspective, traffic congestion will be reduced dramatically by having one bus take all car rental customers to the plaza rather than having eight different buses make the trip, each with perhaps only a few customers.

The airport spokesman said a common shuttle bus "gets rid of a whole lot of traffic" until the light-rail system is running.

Thrifty, in announcing its move on-airport in San Francisco, said it wanted to avoid customers' having to experience "double busing" to an off-site location.

Under the new system, travelers renting from off-site car rental vendors would take a bus to the central plaza and then board a separate bus to the car rental location.

Thrifty said that although the move onto the airport property next year will be expensive, "the added convenience it will provide customers and the additional business expected should be worth the expense."

Thrifty said it will continue to operate its current off-airport location after the centralized facility opens, for the convenience of local market customers.

Enterprise also plans to keep its off-airport site open for the benefit of local customers, a spokeswoman said.

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