Improving the Traveler Experience at LAX through Universal Design

Skills Used: User Research, Experience design, 3D modeling

As a project intern/design consultant for LAX, my team of 9 explored how we could improve the traveler experience. Our process, however, focused on the question: How might we improve accessibility in LAX.

Los Angeles World Airport wanted solutions in particular to the bus gates at the far end of Tom Bradley International Terminal. These gates were additionally designed as overflow gates, but have since become a permanent fixture due to overcrowding of the airport.

Problem:

People hate the bus gate. It’s hard to find. People get anxious about missing flights. Boarding information is not clear. The Bus Gates are a disabling space.

“I didn’t anticipate how far away [the bus gates] were, so I ended up running through the terminal, getting to my gate and panicking because I had to catch a bus” – Cassandra, Traveler at LAX Bus Gates”

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The Bus Gates at 10pm

 

Universal Design Philosophy + Research

Our process heavily involved research with members of the ADA community and actually putting ourselves in the shoes of the differently-abled. We traveled through the terminal with wheelchairs, spoke with hundreds of individuals and ADA experts, and attended conferences on accessible design. We aimed to learn more about user habits, thinking, and pain points.

We also worked with LAWA’s tech team to develop working MVPs. We even tested queue line arrangements to gauge how we might improve traffic flow within the terminal.

 

Proposed Solutions:

(Details and some concepts omitted due to NDA)

Screen Shot 2019-11-16 at 12.41.48 PMScreen Shot 2019-11-16 at 12.41.56 PMWe identified an opportunity to improve the traveler experience by drawing crowds into the alcove area. Even when the main gate was crowded, the alcove – with significant space to distribute the crowd – always remained empty.

 

Sub-Problem: Crowding makes it hard to see eye level boarding announcements, so people crowd around the gate to not miss important updates. Alcove thus remains empty.

Information Solution: Reduce stress by making boarding info accessible, especially in the alcove

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Ceiling clouds for gate boarding calls that also absorb sound so PA announcements can be heard. This insight from studying wheelchair users who couldn’t see TV screens due to standing crowds. This installation can help streamline the boarding process (think color groups)
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Kiosks that give passengers personalized info and directions by scanning a boarding pass 
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We developed a working chatbot that provides travelers with accessible and timely information that is right in their hands. Phones with built-in accessibility features help everyone stay in the loop.

 

Sub-problem 2: The alcove is uninviting, noisy, and isolated from the boarding gates

Entertainment Solution: Attract viewers into the alcove with a grand finale LA experience

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Digital ‘Walk of Fame’ that allows travelers to input their names and be the star of LAX. This was the project I was personally most proud of. (Developed with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Installation date approaching soon)
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Storyboarding for interactive installations and experiences for passing time (NDA)

 

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