A new way to get border-wait information

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Crossing the border on 4 July 1920

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of crossing the U.S.–Mexican border is the unpredictabiity of the Customs lines. Sometimes five minutes, sometimes five hours, sometimes caused foreseeably, sometimes capriciously. To anticipate this difficulty, every “frequent crosser” has their favorite source of border-wait information.

Decades ago, the local radio stations began sending spotters to the San Ysidro border to phone in their Reporte de la Garita every half-hour. Channel 12 and Síntesis television now issue reports on the hour and half-hour during their news programs. When the webcam craze hit, Telnor (the local telephone company) began offering real-time images of the four major sources of vehicular traffic at the point where they converge, later adding a fifth webcam for Otay’s non-commercial lanes. Recorded information is available by telephone (San Ysidro Port of Entry, +1-619-690-8999; Otay Mesa, +1-619-671-8999; Telnor’s service, +52-664-700-7000; from Mexican cell phones, *LINEA). Most popular recently are various Internet portals, primarily tourist sites and Tijuana newspapers, that embed the U.S. government’s reports and the Telnor webcam feeds.

A programmer here in Tijuana known by the nom de guerre “IsReal” has come up with yet another way to get border-wait information: it can now be integrated into your web-browser.

GaritasBC is an extension for Firefox that sits unobtrusively in the right-hand corner of your status bar. When you roll your cursor over it, a tooltip window pops up containing the most current reports for Tijuana and Tecate; right-click to select from a menu of Telnor webcams. The current version of the extension also allows you to access the same information for the Mexicali crossing.

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GaritasBC currently reports all northbound wait times, in Spanish. The source of this information is U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which currently updates its data at the top of every hour. The GaritasBC extension checks for new data every ten minutes, however, so its reports are as timely as the CBP affords.

The extension can be installed automatically by downloading it while running Firefox.

Once installed, the name “GaritasBC” will appear in the status bar at the bottom-right corner of your monitor. Place your cursor over the name and the current report will appear at the tip of your cursor. Right-click (or control-click) on the name and a pop-up menu will offer the available webcams; selecting one will replace whatever is in the active window of your browser with the current static image from that webcam.

To switch between Tijuana/Tecate and Mexicali reports, chose the appropriate radio button in the extension’s preference: from the Firefox menubar -> Tools -> Add-ons -> Extensions -> GaritasBC -> Preferences.

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IsReal describes the development of GaritasBC as a labor of love – in other words, it is not being promoted commercially. Consequently, Firefox continues to classify it as beta software (primarily because of its austere interface and because it’s still waiting to be reviewed by the Firefox editorial team) even though it is now in its fifth version and has received no reports of bugs or instability. If the extension generates enough interest, IsReal has plans to get it out of beta by giving it more a of a graphical interface and by including reports for all the U.S. terrestrial ports of entry along the Mexican border.


Anonymous said...

Have you seen the site www.LaLineaEnVivo.com or www.bordertraffic.com

The Real Tijuana said...

Anon is recommending a commercial site that combines the CBP textual reports with our municipal police's video feeds. The two URLs give the same interface, in Spanish and English respectively.

Our SSP (municipal police) cameras, which are only a few years old, really point up the age of Telnor's cameras. Most of the images are surprisingly clear. As a bonus, one of the SSP cameras shows the freeway lanes inbound to Tijuana, which have been slowing down during Felipe Calderón's presidency.

The sites report that their data are optimized for use on mobile devices. Although you will need to register in order to get in, basic registration is free. A free account gives you access to the normal car lanes and the medical-pass lane. A "VIP" account, for seven bucks a month, gives you access to the SENTRI lanes as well. Video for the pedestrian crossing is still in the works.

Inasmuch as many people have come to this blog looking for information on the other Baja border-crossings, it's worth mentioning that this rather innovative site – they appear to be working toward presenting information on all the land ports-of-entry for the entire United States – currently offers no information on Tecate and only the text feed from CBP for Mexicali.