Finding Shorter Lines

Business by on July 24, 2007 at 9:07 pm

Iva and I just picked up our Nexus Passes. The pass cost $50 and is good for 5 years of short/no lines driving across the Canadian border. The process was relatively painless, but was not without its hurdles (it could have been made a ton easier). It should save me an hour or two each trip and we tend to take 1-2 trips a year (although we always talk about going more often).

I’ve heard one economist make the statement that “Lines are market-based in the sense that they favor those that place a low value on their own time.”

I’m constantly looking for ways to skip/avoid lines:

  • RFID Tags: Nexus, FastPass, EZlane, Bay Area Fastrak. If you don’t already know this, we have little in common.
  • Airport lines: Know your terminal maps. There are often shorter lines at other terminals, and you can usually get between terminals behind the gates. Hub airports have surge lines when planes meet for their connections. I’ve found alternate terminals in SJC and SLC to be particularly productive.
    • Don’t forget shorter lines for frequent travelers. Those little cards they mail you can be very useful, even if you’re traveling on a different airline.
    • FlyClear I’m sure the TSA will screw this one up, but I’d be more than happy to pay and provide my life history to get a quick pass through security.
  • Rental cars: Go get a Gold Card/Preferred/fastpass for every car company you rent from. Its free. You get shorter/no lines.
  • CA DMV: Make an appointment. You don’t have be there exactly on time, but it puts you in a shorter line. Or even better, do it all by mail or online. I wish WA had a similar system.
  • Banks: This one was a trick. You don’t actually go to banks anymore do you? Seriously. I refuse to use a bank that doesn’t allow me to transact everything remotely. Branches only provide value if you have a regular need to deposit bushels of cash. But if you’re in a business that generates bushels of cash, shouldn’t you be using Western Union anyway?

Traffic is really one giant line, and I’m fascinated by the many approaches to avoid it. The latest system that has fascinated me has been London’s traffic surcharges.

I’m curious to see how successful similar regimes are in the US. Billions of productive dollars are wasted every year while commuters across the nation sit in traffic. There have got to be more innovative solutions to traffic problems out there.


  1. mathew johnson — July 25, 2007 @ 12:36 am

    what you really need is a very light jet – that’s the answer!

  2. Rahul Pathak — July 25, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

    Or a tank!

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