Arrivals and Departures road signs at T.F. Green airport.

Arriving and Departing an Airport: It’s All Relative

Driving to the airport is rarely a pleasant experience. Sometimes you are running late, nervous about of flying, or lost in the endless loops of terminals and ramps.

Most American airports (based upon my personal sample size of 12) have a similar traffic philosophy:

Arrivals and Departures road signs at T.F. Green Airport.

Arrivals and Departures road signs at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, RI.

  • Direct access from highway exit
  • Endless loops of access to terminals
  • Separate visitors who are dropping off vs. picking up

Once a driver exits the highway, they are usually presented with their first choice: Take a ramp for arrivals or one for departures.

Who does arriving/departing refer to? The driver? The traveler(s) in the car? The traveler(s) in the airport?

I don’t know.

When I drive to T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, I especially don’t know.

A little help please?

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) does it right.

LAX signs with plane icons.

LAX signs with plane icons.

With an addition of plane icons, the options are clear.

Hartford Court sign on Route 6

The Importance of Punctuation Marks on Road Signs

As a child, it would aggravate me when an adult would give you a rule, and then not follow it.

It was 1986 or so. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Waterman, was teaching us the correct uses of punctation of places for letters. For example:

  • Rd. = Road
  • RI (all caps) = Rhode Island
  • Apt. = Apartment
  • Miss = Unmarried woman

Once learning this secret code, I would soon put the lesson to work, helping me decipher routes along the roads and highways in LitHartford Court sign on Route 6tle Rhody. About once a week, we would drive from Providence heading west on Route 6, through Johnston. Along the highway there was a sign for the “Hartford Ct” exit. I was just taught that “Ct” stands for “Court”. “Conn.” and “CT” stand for Connecticut. The confusion set in. I had never heard of Hartford Court. Was it a big street? Surely they can’t mean Hartford, CT (Connecticut). Nobody from Rhode Island ever drives there. More importantly: an adult wouldn’t make a mistake. If it was an exit for THE HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT, they would have labeled it correctly.

I was wrong. Someone either missed a comma and a period, or a comma and a capital T.

This sign annoyed me for 25 years. When they replaced it around 2015, they still got it wrong. Better, but wrong.  They capitalized the “T” but missed the comma.

Just to be clear, there is no Hartford Ct. off of this exit.

A usability expert was born.