We’ve been talking a lot about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lately and that’s because there’s a lot to talk about. It's biggest problems are their mismanagement and questionable decisions leading to -among other issues- the overcrowded security lines at many of the nation’s airports.
What are the solutions to the security lines in the short-term? Don’t look to this bloated federal agency for innovation or any other federal agency. The private sector has some ideas though.
Delta Airlines may have stumbled onto a good idea to improve efficiency and speed of security check points. At Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Delta has launched what it calls "innovation lanes" which apparently look similar to what is found in many European airports.
Five passengers at a time step up to a conveyor belt to load and unload baggage for security checks. Travelers can drop off their luggage to be checked and go around slower passengers rather than the frustrating one-at-a-time procedure currently in place.
Also, a similar automated conveyor belt feeds empty screening bins back to travelers which eliminates the need and time it takes for an agent to replenish the stacks of security bins.
Finally, if a passenger's luggage sets off screening alarms it can be routed to a separate area for additional screening rather than holding up all of the luggage behind it.
Here's more reporting:
Delta Air Lines paid for and installed a pair of "innovation lanes" at its hometown airport in Atlanta. The lanes are much better designed than the standard security checkpoints found at airports around the US, and the airline hopes it can double the throughput thanks to some clever ideas.
Delta says it spent more than $1 million on the system, which it thought up and deployed in less than two months. No word if it will be rolled out to more airports, but anything that can help get travelers through the TSA's security lines faster will be well received by the airlines and the public.
Delta created and beta-tested this program in just two months? If only big government moved at a pace faster than that of a sloth, implementing an idea like this could shorten the long lines during this summer's peak travel time. We have to assess how these screening process perform under testing and to see if there are other unintended consequences, however this could be a promising solution.
Note that additional staffing does not appear to be added to run these lanes, but more efficient staffing working with technology. This is not unlike the automation that restaurants and fast food chains are experimenting with to reduce staff costs from rising minimum wages.
Americans are already growing accustomed to automated services. If this automation could cut down on the time it takes to get through security and keeps them from missing their flights, it's likely to be a popular option.
Unfortunately, I doubt the TSA will adopt this innovation or any other. Like other federal agencies, the answer is to them more money from Congress to do things the same way and get the same results: mediocrity. Dangerously, our safety in the air against terrorist attacks is what's at stake.