“Every journey starts with another journey of a thousand steps.”
So this post, over on my @Facebook wall, was meant as light comic relief and not as a detailed policy review or proposal. But, well, this is me… and of course I’ve thought about the built environment of the airport.

So just a few observations, in no particular order…

1. @slcairport isn’t the longest hoof among American airports. Not by a long shot. Its current longest walk (from “security” to B24) is about 3,400 feet (a mile is 5,280 feet). When the rest of the south concourse is completed, the longest walk will be about 4,800 feet.
2. A healthy adult walks a ½ mile in 10 minutes. Surprisingly, speeds don’t really drop until well into our 70s. But this is for a brisk walk, not a stroll. It’s a measurement intended to describe people “on the go” — you know… like at an airport.
3. Of course, distance isn’t simply a measurement of space/time. It is also a measurement of frustration. Frustrating walks feel longer. And that’s important. We’re not machines—we’re bundles of lived experience—who tell others about our lived experience (right, @VisitSaltLake?).
4. In terms of frustration, the new airport is death by a thousand paper cuts—and that starts with the “security” screening process, which is a complete crap shoot… Will it be a mere 15 mins of abuse… Or an hour? Who knows?! Better arrive two hours early!
The wound is salted with terrible wayfinding fundamentals and signage… And then salted again because America lacks a coherent travelers bill of rights and whether you make your flight or later connections is something airlines aren’t required to care about.
5. Regardless of the relative short distances, mobility impaired travelers (the elderly, the infirm, the inebriated, and the weary) are up for a brutal transit of the airport.
6. The airport is designed and operated such that there are few transit second chances… Here’s what I mean: The last time I used the airport, it was late at night; I may have been on one of the last flights into SLC that evening…
As I descended into the underground tunnel between the north and south concourses (a ¼ walk in a soulless sewer tunnel). I had the luxury of taking my time and so I was walking slowly after a very long day of travel. About 100 feet into the tunnel, I spotted an elderly couple…
He had chosen to walk instead of taking the moving sidewalk… but was regretting the choice. Maybe 50 feet later he collapsed. I ran off to get someone with a transit cart—but the nearest was at the far end of the tunnel.

No second chance.
7. Mobility independence is a human right… and accommodating that shouldn’t be an afterthought.
8. Well-designed, ennobling public spaces are the mandate/responsibility of every public entity.
9. Salt Lake City and Utah enjoy ENORMOUS windfalls from having @slcairport designated a @Delta hub… and it’s apparent that Delta’s demands were the overwhelming priority of the designers. Efficiency trumped humanity. And it shows. Lawd, it shows.😒
10. The design we got was not a foregone conclusion. There are myriad ways we could have achieved our design goals… But this tribute to mediocrity was what we ended up with.
And with the demands of global climate change, it’s very likely the “last airport” we’ll get. Yet there are countless ways that it could be still improved. I’m not just shouting into the wind.
11. A few ways that the transit experience could be improved at @slcairport, short of rebuilding the whole effing mess:
11a. Make it possible for folks who need mobility support to get from point A to B without transferring. Transfers add 1) complexity 2) delays and 3) points of failure. They are frustration factories.
Yes, I realize that this will require building elevators or ramps or some other mechanism so that carts can make it in and out of the inter-concourse tunnel (the “sewer”). Big effing deal.
11b. Make is possible for folks who need mobility support to choose to get mobility support anywhere along their route—not just at the beginning.
11c. Offer several forms of mobility support—reflecting various levels of impairment—from larger carts, to speed-throttled electric scooters. Be creative in pursuit of better public space design.
11d. Have support personnel stationed all along the route. Cleaning staff and retail workers are NOT support personnel. The most obvious way to do this is to staff all the various support vehicle stations.
11e. PLANTS! @slcairport is climate-controlled and all of those lights aren’t doing anything but reminding us of the soulless and brutal efficiency prized by the airport overlords. Plants improve indoor air quality, lower stress levels, and add a layer of pleasantness to a space.
11f. Add retail/service spaces to the tunnel. It’s a 0.25 miles—let’s add stores, bathrooms, shower areas, a pharmacy/walk-in clinic, travel lockers, seating areas, and Japanese-style airport sleep tubes.
Sure, you want restaurants/bars close to the gate area so that travelers are close enough to run if they lose track of time while eating/drinking. But there are plenty of service improvements that would greatly increase the humanity score of that effing transit sewer.
11g. Murals are great but they aren’t replacements for actual public space design—any more than sharrows are replacements for good street design.
11h. Improve signage. Universally. I could write a frigging book on how thoroughly the airport fails at signage.
11i. More plants. Did I mention plants? Definitely more plants.
Back in 2015, when the designs we unveiled, I had this to say about the new airport—and my opinion hasn’t changed much, I’m afraid:
“We had a wonderful opportunity to conform to global best practices for airport retail, connectivity to the community, and security—and we failed (epically) on every front. @slcairport is a lateral move, which is not in keeping at all with our City's culture of innovation.”
Some useful links:
Moving sidewalk basics:
O’Hare removing moving sidewalks:
Some of the longest airport walks in America:

Here's the whole thread, as a compilation, via @threadreaderapp:


• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with D Christian Harrison 😷

D Christian Harrison 😷 Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!