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Crossing the border at San Ysidro last week, pedestrians, once inside the U.S. border station building, were greeted by mysterious devices at the head of each line. The devices appeared to be robotic in nature, sort of like a line of R2-D2s, draped in black plastic like a Christo art project.

The devices, bolted to the floor, were placed at points just before one entered the booths where agents are stationed. Unable to contain his curiosity, this reporter was compelled to ask an agent about the devices’ sudden arrival. The agent said they were, in essence, do-it-yourself “card swipes” for all official documents. The devices will read all official border-crossing documents, such as Sentri cards, passports, and anything else that has embedded digital information.

The card readers are about four-and-a-half-feet tall and function similar to the San Diego trolley’s “tap and ride” Compass-card-reading devices. The installation of the machines indicates a new stage in the renovation of the border-crossing process. The subject of whether or not human beings will continue to man the individual pedestrian-crossing booths was not asked.

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Comments

Chad Deal Aug. 13, 2013 @ 4:01 p.m.

When I crossed a few days ago, only passport cards were being accepted in the Ready Lane, effectively giving passport cardholders the privileges of a SENTRI cardholders. The line was about 2.5 hours long and I crossed with a card in about two minutes. An agent told me that passport booklets will be allowed in the Ready Lane at some point in the future, which I assume will make the Ready Lane a good deal longer.

Passport cardholders, rejoice while you can!

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Chad Deal Aug. 13, 2013 @ 4:03 p.m.

By the way, the way to the Ready Lane (if you have a passport card) is to walk to the head of the line and look for the rotating gate with a green sign reading "Ready Lane."

You WILL feel like a celebrity.

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Javajoe25 Aug. 15, 2013 @ 9:30 a.m.

So, just a passport won't do? How does one get a passport card?

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dasubergeek Sept. 3, 2013 @ 9:46 a.m.

I crossed over on foot for the first time since they re-did the lines. Mexico has done what they can to make it obvious. ReadyLane and SENTRI are on the right and general crossing is on the left. Once you get to where the new entry to Mexico comes out (its own horrible fustercluck), there are green and white lanes painted on the sidewalk. The problem is that the stores jut out into the sidewalk, so there isn't room yet for three lanes. (They're working on reclaiming some of the street, according to a municipal policeman and a shopkeeper I talked to.)

At about noon on Sunday, the line for the regular inspection snaked all the way past the shops, up the hill, looped around, and headed toward the shuttle departure area and the railroad. Horrendous. But the ReadyLane line was only backed up to the first set of shops, and looked about half an hour long. Well worth spending the $45 or whatever on that passport card while we wait for California to implement Enhanced Driver Licensing.

If you have SENTRI, you'll need to work your way past everyone ("tengo SENTRI, tengo SENTRI, con permiso...") because there's literally no line for SENTRI. One positive thing: the inspectors in the SENTRI line call ReadyLane people when there's no one for SENTRI.

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