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Sacramento airport adds walking path from parking lot to terminals

Responding to users’ requests, Sacramento International Airport today will open a new pedestrian walkway from the daily surface parking lot to both air terminals.

Officials said the path, which guides pedestrians through the parking garage, will allow fliers to chose to make a five-minute walk rather than wait for a shuttle bus. Patrons using the economy lot, however, still are required to wait for shuttle buses.

“Many of our customers prefer to walk, so we now have a bona fide directional path for them,” airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower. “We’ll still have the shuttles for people who, by dint of how much luggage they have or if they have disabilities, prefer to ride.”

The walkway starts at the north end of the lot, at the base of the garage, and directs pedestrians to the garage elevators leading to both terminals.

The move reflects a philosophical change. The Sacramento airport, like other airports, was designed on the premise that fliers and people who come to meet passengers do not want to walk more than a few hundred feet. Several frequent users of the airport have complained, however, that they are forced to wait in parking lots for shuttles that sometimes are slow in arriving.

The daily surface lot previously displayed a sign saying: “No pedestrian access to terminals. Use bus.” That sign was taken down last week. Slothower said some fliers had already been cutting through the garage on foot anyway.

“We’re trying to make it a little more convenient, a little more user-friendly, in ease of transition from getting from one point to the next point,” airports director John Wheat said.

Wheat said the change is aimed in part at helping the airport, which has been struggling financially, compete with Bay Area airports for fliers who live between the two regions. “Customer service is a real selling point,” he said.

Slothower said officials hope the walkway will serve double duty by publicizing the airport’s daily surface lot, which typically is underused, even when the economy lot is filled.

“It is the best deal in parking, and nobody knows about it,” she said. “It is seldom more than half full. We feel like: ‘Try it, you’ll like it.’ ”

The daily lot fee is $12, slightly more expensive than the economy lot, which costs $10 a day. Shuttles come every eight to 10 minutes at the daily surface lot, and every 20 minutes at the economy lot.

Wheat said he hopes to add a much larger amenity, a new five-story hotel, in the next few years. It would sit at the north end of the garage, with short walk access to both terminals. “We’re continuing our discussions (with a private developer) to see if we can come to a final conclusion.”

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