Over the holidays I spent about half an hour at Portland International Airport waiting for a pickup, and it got me thinking about likes and dislikes when it comes to design there.
I think many of us would agree that overall, PDX is one of the nicer airports in the world. It's clean, simple, features many local businesses, is accessible by MAX light rail, and is teeming with natural light in the gate concourses. Most other airports I visit make me appreciate ours. But naturally with a place that big, there's always room for improvement, too.
I'd like to make this a participatory conversation in the spirit of my recent POVIC post and the comments that came afterward. What would you like to see changed or otherwise addressed when it comes to design and the user experience?
Starting from the entry into PDX, I always marvel at the glass canopy stretching from the terminal to the parking garage. It's an impressive work of engineering and/or architecture, and it's also highly functional. After getting out of your car, it feels like you're in a dome stadium instead of an outdoor one. And in winter during the airport's busy holiday time, that's a nice luxury.
Inside, I'll be very glad when they find a way to streamline the process of checking in baggage. It's a pain to have to take the bag one's self from the ticket counter to a separate security screening area. I'm all for as much security as possible, but why can't they connect the checkpoint with those conveyor belts behind the ticket counter? Is our schlepping these bags an essential part of the process?
Next, I'd like to see a makeover of the areas between the shops and the security checkpoints. When you're waiting to pick someone up, as I was recently, you're constantly going back and forth between the televisions to see if the flight has landed and the arrivals corridor where people are coming out. Also, there ought to be some kind of indication to people waiting which passengers are walking past us. Why not have some kind of big board like at Penn Station in New York that hangs above the security area? That way you could watch for the person you're meeting and keep an eye on the arrivals information without going back and forth.
It's also unfortunate that this waiting area is one of the darker, more artificially lit portions of the public space. Beyond security on either side, there are large volumes of naturally lit, glass ensconced spaces, yet no one lingers much there - except TSA screeners. Every time I pick someone up at PDX, I get stuck in one of the darkest, low-ceiling places in the whole building. Even more crucially, though, there's not enough places to sit down while you're waiting for a pickup. What seats there are seem too close to the chaos of a children's play area on one side and are (if I remember correctly) separated from the arrivals corridor on the other side.
I also wish there was more available from a retail standpoint on a 24-hour basis. Half the time I'm flying it seems to be at the very beginning of the day or end of the evening, and the only thing open is a newsstand or a coffee place with a few pastries. I think the Port of Portland should subsidize one good deli with high quality groceries and made-to-order sandwiches.
But as I said, I'd like to encourage the rest of you to let PDX know what you like, what you don't and, most especially, what you'd like to see there in the future.