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Craig Newmark Headshot

Internal Innovation at TSA Gets Results

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The TSA -- Transportation Security Authority -- has built an internal innovation site, which employees use to figure out how to better provide customer service and generally do stuff better.

One of their earliest, and to date, best ideas, has to do with getting people through airport security lines faster. They figured that they'd add lanes based on how experienced a traveler might be.

This idea originally led to the creation of the Green Circle Family/Special Needs Lane -- available at airports nationwide -- which allows those traveling with young children or who need additional assistance to proceed through security without being hassled by those travelers rushing to make their flights. Related to this idea, was the creation of the Diamond Self Select Program, which added two additional lane designations: Black Diamond -- for the experienced traveler; and Blue Square -- for the casual traveler. This has helped ease passenger frustration at security checkpoints and led to a more pleasant screening experience.

The concept was created with the intent of calming down the security checkpoint environment to enhance TSA's ability to recognize malicious intent. Separating expert passengers from the casual passenger and traveling families provides a less stressful and more efficient queuing process that has resulted in a reduction in alarm rates and increased throughput.

The full "Self Select" program is in about 50 airports (out of 450 airports) and 60 checkpoints in those airports. 

  • Every day, approximately 340,000 passengers use self-select lanes, equal to about 20 percent of the entire traveling public.
  • Program-wide, the Expert lanes have seen an average 21 percent increase inthroughput (with some as high as 40 percent), while the alarm rates for both theExpert and Family lanes are down an average of 11 percent.
  • The ultimate goal is customer satisfaction, which leads to a calmer checkpoint and less stress and anxiety for both passengers and TransportationSecurity Officers (TSOs). In fact, at some airports where the program has been implemented, absenteeism by officers has dropped.

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