SUPER BOWL SPECIAL : This Weekend, All Rental Car Firms Are No. 1

Times Staff Writer

Patrick Flynn hasn't had any trouble renting cars and vans to Super Bowl fans.

"If I had a million cars I'd be able to rent them all," said a smiling Flynn, city manager of the Avis Rent A Car System licensee in San Diego. "But I don't have any place to store them or service that many cars."

The city's rental car companies have increased the number of cars in their fleets, according to Flynn, who serves on the Super Bowl Task Force's transportation committee, but there still haven't been enough cars for everyone who wants one Super Bowl week.

Avis has added about 350 cars to its 2,000-car fleet. Hertz added about 500 cars to its normal 3,000, National about 200 to its 1,300.

Most of those cars were shuttled into San Diego from Los Angeles, according to Flynn. And, some rental car companies also took delivery of new cars in San Diego rather than in Los Angeles.

A Fleet of Limousines

The city's limousine companies--and limousine operators in Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Orange County--have guaranteed the National Football League that there will be a minimum of 400 limos for those who want to travel in style.

But there will probably be as many as 1,000 limousines at the stadium parking lot Sunday, according to Meredith Craft, general manager of Olde English Livery Service and a member of the Super Bowl Task Force's transportation committee.

"There were about 2,000 limousines at the Super Bowl last year at the Rose Bowl," Craft said. Determining how many of the chauffeur-driven vehicles will be pressed into service in San Diego has been difficult "because we've never done this before in San Diego," Craft said.

Those who want to arrive in style will do so in cars bearing the nameplates of Cadillac, Lincoln, Oldsmobile, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce and just about every other make available. Local and out-of-town limousine operators are also offering chauffeur-driven sedans and vans.

Some exotic vehicles usually found only in Los Angeles--complete with sauna, bar, beds and the like--also will appear in San Diego, Craft predicted.

Fears of Return Crush

Demand for limousines has skyrocketed. Craft's company was sold out for Super Bowl XXII the day after Super Bowl XXI. Her company, which normally rents eight limousines, has made arrangements to rent 100 vehicles during Super Bowl week.

While car rentals have gone smoothly so far, there are worries about the crush when they are returned.

Rentals have been relatively easy, according to Flynn, because Super Bowl visitors have been arriving over the past week.

But Flynn is worried about Sunday night and Monday morning, when thousands of Super Bowl spectators at hotels around the county are expected to jump in their rental cars and make a mad dash to Lindbergh Field.

That unprecedented rush of rental cars will compound the Monday morning traffic jam that typically occurs when thousands of out-of-town business people deplane at Lindbergh Field and race toward rental car counters.

The end result could be gridlock along Harbor Drive and at Lindbergh's normally congested East and West terminals, Flynn said.

"We have suggested that people give themselves at least two hours to get to the airport, return their car and catch their flight."

Rental car agencies also are suggesting that tourists approach Lindbergh Field from the west, along Harbor Drive, which is expected to be less crowded.

Additional signs are being printed to guide out-of-town visitors to the rental car lots that are at the western end of Lindbergh Field, Flynn said. And, most rental car companies have handed out special maps and directions to tourists.

Limousine companies also are trying to familiarize chauffeurs with San Diego.

Watching the Parade

San Diegans with a desire to watch the limousine parade should station themselves along San Diego Mission Road, which will be limited to limo and bus traffic Sunday.

That traffic route is part of a citywide effort by safety officials designed to prevent traffic jams such as the gridlock that developed at Los Angeles International Airport several years ago on the morning after the Super Bowl. That was when frustrated motorists abandoned rental cars rather than miss their flights.

With that epic traffic jam in mind, Flynn and other rental car company representatives have fashioned a game plan that might minimize traffic disruptions along Harbor Drive and at Lindbergh's two terminals.

That plan includes two key provisions that they hope will keep traffic flowing.

The rental car companies will issue walkie-talkies to employees who will be stationed at key points along Harbor Drive and the East and West terminals. When those spotters find abandoned vehicles, radio-dispatched employees will use bicycles to reach those cars and drive them to nearby parking lots.

As an added incentive to keep drivers in their rented cars, customers who abandon their cars in the expected mad rush toward Lindbergh will be socked with at least a $50 penalty, according to Flynn.

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