I read the article in Slate about a new registered traveler program, but couldn’t figure out what the hubaloo was about. Special express security screening lines already exist at many airports offered by the airlines for their best customers. Anyone who pays the $80/year and submits to the background check will still have to go through X-ray and the metal detector. And if you’re traveling enough to be willing to pay the $80, you would likely have enough accumulated travel and/or clout with the airlines to qualify for their express screening lines. If you don’t, your travel department and/or secretary aren’t doing a good enough job.
Edited to Add: I’ll expound on why I think every registered traveler program is destined to fail, at least as an economic venture. The target market is first limited to frequent travelers. Since most frequent travelers receive expedited screening privileges at the busier airports due to their frequent flyer programs, the reduction of wait time for your primary screening from 30 minutes down to 3 already applies in the most important cases. By receiving the benefit for free, there’s an instant reduction in the size of the target market. You can’t eliminate the primary screening for anyone without opening a gigantic hole in the screening process that makes the whole operation worthless.
So who would still be interested? Those on the do-not-fly list or are regular recipients of the dreaded psuedorandom secondary screening. These would be the travelers who most often have to be wanded down and have their luggage searched, either because their name appears on one of the mysterious government-maintained lists or due to certain travel patterns that trigger additional screening. A limited market exists where these travelers would appreciate relief from additional screening. However, these are also likely to be the audience most likely to be denied access to the program by the TSA.
So long as the program offers no relief from the X-ray and metal detector process, their adoption rates will not support a large market. To make matters worse, should the market fracture, with airports contracting with separate, incompatible providers, I would anticipate a further rejection of the idea from the marketplace.