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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SFO Airport Incentives for Hybrids - Bad Idea Mayor Newsom

If you did not know, San Francisco International Airport is owned by the City and County of San Francisco, even though it is situated away from city borders and next door to South San Francisco and Millbrae.

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today (courtesy of KPIX news) that alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles rented from the airport will receive a $15 incentive. The incentive is not per day, but just a one time offer regardless of length of rental.

But reporter Jeffrey Schaub noted that while the incentive will reduce the rental cost slightly, it still costs (on average) $15 more per day to rent one of the hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles. So basically... if you rent an AFV/hybrid for more than one day, you are not getting such a bargain after all. In fact, Schaub noted that a conventional fuel vehicle after a week of renting it, you would pay $75 less than getting the AFV/hybrid.

In my opinion... what a bad idea Newsom! Here's my reasons why:
  • Mayor Newsom did it too late. If he offered the incentive during the high cost of fuel prices, people would pay more attention. If you rent a car, you will drive it around the Bay Area, and you can literally fry half a tank driving from SF to San Jose (round-trip) on a conventional vehicle with average gas economy. If Newsom offered the incentive during the rise in fuel prices, visitors and business people would rent the hybrid because of it's fuel savings, and after a lot of driving, that slightly higher cost for the car rental would reduce the amount you pay at the pump.
  • If you are visiting San Francisco, have hotel accommodations in downtown, and don't plan to go outside of city borders (unless if you can access BART and the ferries) you don't need a rental car. Nothing against the rental agencies; let's all remember that parking your car at at downtown hotel's parking lot will cost you PLENTY. If you plan to rent a car, find a hotel or inn with free parking or street parking (without 2-hour parking zones and meters). Areas in the Sunset and Richmond districts that have inns and hotels offer free parking and usually next to a major Muni line. Seal Rock Inn on 48th and Pt. Lobos offers free parking, and you are just steps away from the 38L, 38AX, and the 18-46th Avenue.
  • Smart tourists know the ways to save money on car rentals. You just don't pick-up your car from the airport. You go to one of the rental agencies (a.k.a. "local" centers) to get your car. Go to a fancy hotel, call Enterprise, and like they say, they'll pick you up.
  • The economy is in a terrible state and people are trying to save money as much as they can. If they can find a cheaper car (a conventional fuel vehicle) and know about it's fuel efficiency, they'll rent it and say, "no thanks" to the hybrid.
So really Mayor Newsom... this is just a PR stunt. The news report states that a representative of one of the agencies said it is a better deal if the city did not enforce this $15 incentive. It looks like the city is not forking any money, just forcing the rental agencies to discount, even though the agencies can simply raise the price $15 to spare its losses.

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