Against their own initial opinion, the Transportation Security Administration is testing a new method for queueing airport security lines.
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 idea, akin to how ski resorts divide skiers by ability, was suggested to TSA by focus groups of fliers. The agency didn’t think it would work, says TSA chief Kip Hawley, but a test showed travelers liked the idea, and it had some benefits for security screening.
Seems to make sense, and I know from personal experience just last week that the method works.
You have to see it to believe it," Mr. Hawley said. "It has improved the flow and calm at the checkpoints." "Throughput" — the number of passengers who go through screening per hour — is up slightly because of the new configuration, and the screening area has gotten calmer. That actually enhances security, the TSA says, because a calm, quieter area makes nervous people who might be up to no good stand out. "It’s all working much better than we expected," said Lee Kair, the TSA’s federal security director in Orlando.
Does the new system use complex rules, software-driven sorting, or any other form of complexity? Nope. Just a couple simple signs with a simple message… and the power of people’s brains to decide what makes the most sense for their situation.
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," Mr. Kair said. "People can go through with the least amount of aggravation."
The power of visual management, a concept core to lean manufacturing. Excellence through simplicity.
"The reason why this is working is because it’s really simple," said Mr. Kair. "It didn’t take millions of dollars in new technology. It’s just signs and stanchions."
It’s not all good news… there’s plenty of criticism for the TSA in the article. And as any of you who have skied in Europe or waited for a bus in Argentina know, creating orderly lines is not an inherent universal human skill.