When I first heard of the TSA examining the possibility of using a “randomizer” device to assign passengers to specific lines, I thought surely it would include a component to increase efficiency by taking (or reducing) the guess work out of which line will move the fastest.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Not only does it appear it will NOT use real-time line movement diagnostics via video monitoring, or the like, it seems soon passengers will no longer be able to play the ever popular game:
PICK-THE-FASTEST-LINE! [cue cheesy game-show music]

From the grocery store to the bank  to the busy gas station, we’ve all played the game. I’m guilty of attempting to use my keen skills of experience with a dash of luck to pick which line will result in me getting my stuff out the door the quickest. C’mon people… I’ve got new Dexter, True Blood and No Reservations episodes waiting for me on the DVR. Heck, I admit… I make a game of it!

  • My eyes pan to the cashier: young or old? veteran or rookie? pace of scanning? bagger helping (if applicable)?
  • Then the quantity of items: number of goods? weight of goods? half cart full of many small items or stuffed cart but only a couple big box items?
  • Lastly, attempt to ID the folks in line: is that a checkbook I see…without starting to fill it in? grrr! is he carrying a binder of coupons? price check, no!
TSA  non-sterile (stinky feet) area

TSA non-sterile (stinky feet) area


Airline travelers arrive at the TSA checkpoint area to first have their boarding pass and ID examined by a TSA official (called a Travel Document Checker (TDC)) before either having a second warm-body TSA official point them towards a particular conveyor belt or, if no such “assigning officer” is at his station, the travelers get to play PICK-THE-FASTEST-LINE! [again, cue cheesy game-show music]


On June 27, 2013, the TSA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to prospective vendors for the development and supply of “Randomizers” — mini-computerized signs to randomly determine the conveyor belt to which a specific passenger will be assigned. They must have certain attributes as further detailed in the government RFI here, led by the TSA’s Office of Security Capabilities (OSC) Checkpoint Technologies Division (CTD) (gotta love government acronyms!). The CTD is “responsible for identifying, testing, procuring, deploying, and sustaining equipment that detect threats.”



Device – Small, but visible, and placed next to the TDC’s station so that the passenger and the TDC may see it to direct the traveler to the assigned conveyor. This may be a standalone device or attached to the TDC podium in some manner. Not be more than 45″ high, 37″ wide and 37″ deep. It should operate as a portable, standalone unit, using commercially available 120 volt AC current, and be able to function on batteries.

Control input percentages – Randomizer must be able to respond to TSA’s inputted percentages, e.g. directing 70% of all passengers to the left and 30% to the right.

Be Pretty! / No negative connotations – No offending or antagonizing display commands, such as ‘Yes/No’ ‘O/X’ ‘Green/Red arrows”, as I’m guessing the passengers will be frustrated enough by (1) already being in another airport line, (2) having a machine tell them what to do, and (3) not being able to go to what they think is (or may be) the fastest line!

TSA Randomizer Location Diagram

TSA Randomizer Location Diagram

BONUS: check out this YouTube video “Why the other line is likely to move faster” by Prof. William S. Hammack (aka Bill the Engineer Guy @engineerguytwit), an engineering professor in my home town and alma mater, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: