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The curb-side terminal mess

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Recently, a woman dragged a Salt Lake International Airport security officer 25 feet with her car in what appears to have been an act of rage against his repeated instructions for her to quit clogging traffic in front of a terminal. The woman was waiting for her boyfriend.

A few weeks before that, a car struck two airline employees who were trying to cross the road in the same area.

It would be foolish for the city to overreact to two accidents that happened to occur in the same area, but public annoyances with airport parking appear to be on the rise. The city can do some things to alleviate the problem, some of which the mayor already has initiated. In the long run, however, if may be best to outlaw the practice of dropping off and picking up people in front of terminals. Eventually, the construction of a light-rail transit line directly to the airport — one with trains that stop at a parking lot on their way out — will help greatly, as well.

Mayor Rocky Anderson has announced a plan to build a paved waiting lot several hundred feet from the terminals, which would allow motorists to wait for free. Human nature being what it is, this may not work unless the practice of loading and unloading directly in front of the terminals is strictly forbidden. People always will be prone to find the most convenient place to pick up an arriving passenger, and that is as close to the terminal as possible.

In any event, this new lot ought to include free access to luggage trolleys and some sort of free transportation for people who are disabled.

Already, the airport has taken the step of making parking free for the first half hour in the short-term terrace, but few people seem to be taking advantage of this for quick drop-offs. Airport officials should look for more effective ways to inform people of this.

The mayor also wants to build raised crosswalks and install more flashing lights to draw attention to pedestrians. These are good ideas. Both would serve as psychological reminders to drivers, many of whom now seem to think they have the supreme right of way in the area. He also would widen the entrance road to the terminals, which would help.

Airports combine several of the more combustible elements of human behavior. One is the desire to save money. Parking garages are perceived to be expensive. Another is procrastination. Some people arrive with little time to spare before their flight and want the quickest access possible. A third is simply the stress of travel. Blood pressures tend to rise as teeming crowds are encountered, metal detectors sound alarms and airline employees ask probing questions about luggage.

When travelers encounter terminal curbs that are stacked two or three cars deep with anxious passengers, that merely adds to the combustion.

None of this, of course, excuses criminal behavior or negligence. Sometimes, however, the best solution is simply to outlaw the thing that is causing the most trouble.