The TSA Wants You To Redesign Its Slow Lines

TSA PreCheck, the fast-lane program for frequent travelers, is far from ready to justify its $85 price tag. Enter crowd-sourcing.


The Transportation Security Administration has been proudly touting its TSA PreCheck program for months, promising low-risk travelers “expedited, more efficient security screening” in exchange for $85 and a background check. Too bad nobody bothered to design how the two-tier system would work in practice.


Now, with 400,000 PreCheck applicants approved since December, TSA officials are realizing that many of the 118 PreCheck-designated airports are unprepared to manage the parallel flows of traffic. Their response? Set aside $15,000 from the agency’s $7.6 billion 2014 budget to run a competition for crowd-sourced solutions.

“TSA conducts queue assessments and has established the algorithms that need to be met for a successful queue design,” TSA spokesperson Bessy Guevara tells Co.Design. “The InnoCentive Challenge calls for a modeling program to help facilitate this process, which TSA does not have.”

TSA, Minneapolis, MN via Jeffrey J Coleman / Shutterstock

Current layouts need to adapt in response to TSA PreCheck, the agency says, while continuing to accommodate standard travelers, business and first-class travelers, flight crews, and persons with disabilities. Given that complexity, TSA is seeking to “apply a scientific and simulation modeling approach to meet queue design and configuration needs.” The roll-out of PreCheck is the impetus for the competition, but the agency is interested in ideas that would improve the experience of standard airport security lines, too.

Competition proposals are required to address variables such as peak and non-peak hours, staffing schedules, and site-specific requirements. They must also achieve wait times of 5 minutes or less, as demonstrated by a 2-D animation of the solution in action. So far, 129 “solvers” have registered for the prize on Innocentive, the platform hosting the challenge.

[H/T NextGov]

About the author

Senior Writer Ainsley Harris joined Fast Company in 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.