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Hartsfield-Jackson opens Rental Car Center

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Area politicians and officials with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport cut the ceremonial ribbon, Monday, on the 67.5-acre airport Rental Car Center.

A total of 12 rental car companies will be housed in the 24-hour facility, which will serve as a one-stop shop for passengers looking to pick up or drop off rented vehicles.

According to airport officials, the elevated automated people mover, the ATL SkyTrain, will ferry airport passengers to and from the rental facility, and take more than 125 rental car company shuttle buses off the roads around the airport. The train will take passengers on a five-minute, 1.5-mile ride along an elevated track, to and from Hartsfield-Jackson and the Rental Car Center.

"The future has arrived," Ben DeCosta, aviation general manager for Hartsfield-Jackson, said in a statement. "Our passengers will enjoy the speed and convenience of having all rental car operations, including customer transaction counters and vehicles, in one easily accessible location."

Airport officials said the Rental Car Center features two, four-story parking decks; 2.8 million square feet of parking; more than 8,700 parking spaces; 1,200 additional ground-level parking spaces; a 137,000-square-foot customer service center; one maintenance and recovery vehicle; a 1.3-acre ATL SkyTrain maintenance facility; a 2.7-acre "quick turn-around" area with maintenance, wash and fuel facilities for rental vehicles; 58 fuel pumps and 19 wash bays with water-recovery systems.

Airport officials said Hartsfield-Jackson is the first airport in the nation to open a rental car center and an associated people-mover system simultaneously.

About 500 officials from Hartsfield-Jackson, the Federal Aviation Administration, Delta Air Lines, AirTran Airways, the City of Atlanta and Clayton County were present Monday, during a press conference announcing the grand opening of the Rental Car Center.

Officials gathered at an ATL SkyTrain station located at the Ground Transportation center of Hartsfield-Jackson, for remarks by DeCosta and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. Franklin commissioned the train by breaking a bottle of champagne against a hand rail of the train.

"When we [the City of Atlanta] make plans, like the plans of the rental car facility ... and we execute them and execute them well, it is an advancement to the nation," said Franklin.

Those in attendance then rode to the Rental Car Center on a two-car ATL SkyTrain.

Airport officials said that when passengers board the ATL SkyTrain at Hartsfield-Jackson, the first stop will be the Georgia International Convention Center, followed by a stop at the Rental Car Center. "During peak hours, passengers will wait approximately two minutes between trains," said DeCosta.

DeCosta said the construction of the train facility would not have been possible without the passenger facility charges paid by passengers when they purchase an airline ticket.

He said that, like the construction of the fifth runway, the Rental Car Center project was under budget.

The construction of the Rental Car Center began in late March of 2006, though the airport began planning for the facility more than 10 years ago, airport officials said. Both the Rental Car Center and the ATL SkyTrain are components of the airport's $6 billion-plus Capital Improvement Program.

"Any project that we undertake at the airport to serve businesses has an effect that is outstanding for the community as a whole," Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said. "My belief is that the new rental car facility is representative towards the next steps in taking the airport, and its surrounding communities, even further into global prominence."

DeCosta said more than 2 million passengers complete rental car transaction at Hartsfield-Jackson each year.

Kevin Langston, deputy commissioner for tourism for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said the rental car facility will improve the experience of airport passengers renting cars, and could have secondary effects.

"The Rental Car Center will make the visitor experience at the airport more convenient, user-friendly and speedy," Langston said. "Any time we make the visitor experience better, we can expect to see more satisfied visitors, and satisfied visitors return more frequently and talk about their experience to friends and colleagues, leading them to visit as well. It's a virtuous cycle that leads to more visitor expenditures here in Georgia."

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On the net:

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: www.atlanta-airport.com