March 9, 2007

SD-TJ time difference will affect thousands of commuters

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

When the new daylight savings time springs forward this Sunday, March 11, there will be a one hour difference between Tijuana and San Diego, with the first being one hour behind for three weeks.

When the clock hits 8 a.m. in San Diego, in Tijuana it’ll be 7 a.m.

That’s going to alter Jose Ortega’s life. He’s a commuter, like thousands living in Tijuana and crossing the border daily to work in San Diego County.

“I’m going to wake up one hour earlier in order to make it to work on time,” Ortega said at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. “On the other hand, I’m going to arrive home an hour earlier as well.”

Like Ortega, the new measure, known as the Energy Policy Act of 2005, will affect thousands of commuters that divide their time between San Diego and Tijuana. There are those that live in Tijuana and go to school or work in San Diego.

The bill changes the start and end dates of daylight saving time from 2007. Clocks will be set ahead one hour on the second Sunday of March (March 11, 2007) instead of the current first Sunday of April (April 1, 2007). Clocks will be set back one hour on the first Sunday in November (November 4, 2007), rather than the last Sunday of October (October 28, 2007).

But Baja California will continue following the current schedule, causing the three week difference in March, and a week difference in November.

Since the decade of the 1940’s there hasn’t been a difference in time, when Baja California began applying daylight saving time (or Horario de Verano, as it is known in Spanish) to match California time, said Rosa Arce, spokesperson for the Department of Economic Development of Baja California, agency in charge of the time change in the state.

Baja California officials are already considering adjusting the Horario de Verano to match the California time in 2008. Also, officials are looking into incrementing the Horario de Verano for one more week to follow in California’s footsteps and avoid a time difference in November, Arce said.

Government officials on both side of the border are trying to look for alternatives to this drastic change, although the measures focus more on commercial solutions.

In order to alleviate the big problem that will be created for frequent border crossers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will extend by one hour the hours of operation of the SENTRI lanes at San Diego area border stations, according to public information officer Vince Bond.

Hours of operation at the four SENTRI vehicle lanes at the San Ysidro port of entry will begin at 4 a.m. (Calif. time) and will close at 1 a.m. (Calif. time) daily from March 11 through March 31 to allow travelers in Mexico an additional hour of service. The SENTRI program, or Secure Electronic Network for Traveler’s Rapid Inspection, allows pre-approved border crossers a faster means of vehicle processing.

The single SENTRI lane at the Otay Mesa passenger port will open daily at 5 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m. (Calif. time) Monday through Friday, and at 1 a.m. (Calif. time) on weekends and holidays during the three-week period when Mexican clocks will be one hour behind those in California.

No change will occur to general use vehicle lane operations at both ports because they are open 24-hours daily, Bond said.

Also, Mexican and U.S. custom officials have agreed to adjust the hours of operation of the export/import lanes at Otay Mesa, according to Sergio Tagliapietra Nassri, secretary of Economic Development in Baja California.

He added that his agency is encouraging Baja California and California companies with operations on both sides of the border to plan ahead and adjust their times as well to accommodate the time difference.

The two measures mentioned above won’t make a difference for Sandra Rubiera, a commuter who works in Chula Vista.

She doesn’t have a SENTRI pass nor is she trying to export goods to the U.S.

“There’s no way around it: I have to wake up one hour earlier starting Sunday,” she said.

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