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TSA tests new security speed options

  • Story Highlights
  • Airport security will soon have a fast-lane option for expert travelers
  • Lanes also designated for casual travelers, families and people with special needs
  • Diamond Lanes program will run on the honor system
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By Jim Spellman
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(CNN) -- Travelers frustrated with delays at airport security checkpoints may soon have a new fast-lane option. The Transportation Security Administration is experimenting with a new system, dubbed Diamond Lanes, that will allow travelers to choose one of three lines that best suits their traveling style: expert traveler, casual traveler, or families and special assistance.

Security lines can get long during holidays and other high traffic periods.

The hope of TSA is to make everyone more comfortable. Seasoned business travelers, the sort that arrive with their laptops out and loafers off, can choose the fast lane, while families struggling with strollers and baby bottles can take their time in the slow lane.

"We reached out to passengers and realized self-selection was high on their wish list " said TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne. "We see this every day. There are different agendas for different passengers."

Payne also claimed the Diamond Lanes will help with security. "We're always looking for ways to benefit the security package and help the passenger as well," she said. "If we can calm down the environment, it helps control the entire security environment."

Diamond Lanes are currently being tested at airports in Salt Lake City and Denver, where TSA has tapped into the skiing culture by using a color-coded system similar to that used on ski slopes. Green circles indicate lines for families and people who need special assistance, blue squares are for casual travelers and black diamonds are for experts.

So far the program is running on the honor system -- there are no plans at the moment to force travelers into specific lines.

TSA said the program has been working and it hopes to expand it to other airports, though the success of the program depends on whether fliers follow the rules.

"Passengers will ultimately determine the success of the pilot [program]," said Earl Morris, TSA federal security director at Salt Lake City International Airport.

TSA is often criticized for long lines and difficult-to-decipher rules. A 2007 Associated Press poll found the agency tied with the IRS near the top of the list of Americans' least favorite government agencies. Only the Federal Emergency Management Agency was more disliked.

But TSA has been working on changing its image. The outreach to solicit advice from travelers, which TSA says led to the Diamond Lanes program, was one effort. The agency even created a blog where travelers can vent their frustrations.

But a TSA officer blogging on the site was skeptical of TSA's latest effort. The officer wrote, "I have a feeling people won't read the signs. I'm hoping I am wrong. People usually gravitate toward the shortest line or the line that seems to be moving the fastest." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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