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Cleveland Hopkins looks to add rental car fee to fund future capital improvements

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Feb 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-08 18:51:19-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is looking to assess a new fee on travelers who rent cars at the airport in order to fund the construction of a new rental car terminal on the airport campus.

If approved, the so-called customer facilities charge would likely be paid by non-Cleveland residents, which accounted for 96% of the rental car volume last year, according to city data.

Although airport officials are still determining the exact rate, Dennis Kramer, the interim director of port control, told members of Cleveland City Council’s Transportation and Mobility Committee that they are anticipating the fee to be in the ballpark of $4 to $8 per rental day. The rate would be determined by the city’s Board of Control.

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File photo.

The revenue generated by the new fee would fund the design and construction of a new rental car terminal on what is now the Orange Lot, which is adjacent to the large parking garage on the Hopkins campus. The current rental car terminal is located on Maplewood Drive, more than a mile away from the main airport campus. The current operation, which airport officials described as less than optimal, requires visitors to take shuttle busses from the main terminal to the rental lot. On a clear day with no traffic, News 5 drove the shuttle route and determined it took five minutes.

Kramer said the relocation of the car rental terminal was repeatedly mentioned in public feedback and engagement sessions that were held as part of the airport’s master planning process.

“One of the major points that was brought in those engagement efforts was an improved customer experience for our rental car operation,” Kramer said. “This is us taking that engagement and that feedback that we got in that process and making it a reality.”

Although the new rental car terminal has yet to even enter the design phase, preliminary estimates project a price tag of $200 million, Kramer said. Depending on the type of financing used, construction would begin later this decade, potentially by 2027.

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Kramer told council members that the implementation of customer facilities fees have become a common practice in the industry, citing other airports in the region that have implemented such fees, including nearby Akron-Canton Airport. Kramer cited the following examples.

  • Cincinnati: $7.50 per day
  • Columbus: $6.50 per day
  • Detroit: $3 per day
  • Pittsburgh: $6 per day
  • Indianapolis: $5 per day
  • Akron: $2 per day
  • Dayton: $5 per day

Because many airports like Cleveland-Hopkins are not taxpayer-funded, they instead rely on user fees, including parking, concessions, passenger fees and lease payments in order to finance capital improvements and expenditures.

“It’s finding that balance between what that fee should be so we’re not affecting the [rental car] business and our business and bringing this facility to fruition as quickly as we can,” Kramer said.

Moving the rental car terminal back to the airport campus would also lead to other efficiency improvements, Kramer said.

“We’ll no longer need to have a shuttle. It will actually be a more sustainable operation as well because we won’t have constant shuttle traffic going back and forth,” Kramer said.

On Wednesday, the Transportation and Mobility Committee approved the legislation. Although the legislation still requires approval from city council, Kramer said the fee could take effect this spring.