TSA Checkpoints: Self-Segregated

May 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm Leave a comment

From Travel.MSN.com, an interesting new attempt at making checkpoints less of a hell: 

In an effort to ease traveler anxiety and maybe even improve airport security, the Transportation Security Administration is rolling out a new setup where fliers are asked to self-segregate into different screening lanes depending on their security prowess. There are lanes for “Expert Travelers,” who know the drill cold; “Casual Travelers,” who run the airport gauntlet infrequently; and people with small children or special needs who move slowly through screening.

The self-segregation is based on how ski slopes work. If you’re planning to go slow and you don’t want to be rushed by experts, you go down green slopes. If you’re an expert you can go down the green slope, but you’ll see kids and amateurs along the way and you’ll have to be patient. The black slopes are for experts who plan to move quickly. If you’re an amateur you can still go down the blacks, but you will be rushed and crowded by experts on the black slopes.

The TSA says it doesn’t care if people jump to a different lane — in fact, officers often route people to shorter lanes to speed up throughput. And the agency doesn’t really care how people identify themselves. “We’re finding people pick the lane most appropriate — where they feel most comfortable.”

 It sounds reasonable. Certainly its not flawless and its not going to shatter the way we travel. But every progression doesn’t have to solve every problem 100% of the time.

The net sum is that throughput is similar. But… people who want to go slow are now able to do so without being rushed by impatient road warriors, while road warriors who can zip through the routine are less apt to be stuck behind slow-movers. The net that’s important is that the stress level around the gates is being lowered, and that’s a big plus.

Putting families and people with special needs like wheelchairs into separate lanes allows them to relax a bit without road warriors pushing them to move faster. As a result, they set off fewer “nuisance alarms” because they prepare better and get metal, shoes and liquids properly into X-ray bins. The family lanes move slower than lanes moved before the change, on average, but many families seem to like the pace.

“Awesome. It was great,” said Autumn Mousser, traveling with her 20-month-old at Dallas Love Field last week.

With slower-moving passengers segregated, Expert Traveler lanes do move faster — 30% to 40% faster in Orlando than the average lane moved before the change.”
“I’m a big fan. I love it,” Darren Eastman of Dallas said of the Expert Traveler lanes. “For people who travel a lot, security has become second-nature, and they are able to get in and get out quick.”

Pablo Dominguez of New York says he stood for several minutes in an Orlando security line last week while TSA screeners chatted among themselves. “Everything is up to the guys working on the line,” he said. “The problem is not the passengers. The problem is the TSA.”

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