Passport Office Line in DC: A Block Long Frustration

passport agency line
Passport wait – two lines long!

If you’re trying to get a passport at the Passport Agency on 1111 19th Street, N.W. in downtown Washington DC, these long-ass lines awaits you.

The line for the proletariat who are flying soon stretches all the way down 19th Street, several hundred people and a few hours long.

The line for the bourgeoisie, those with letters from their Congressmen, is relatively short if hard to get into.

Curiously, there isn’t a line for those with appointments. Probably because it’s impossible to get through to the automated appointment phone number – I know I tired for a week before I gave up.

This passport issue and renewal line is not a new phenomenon, its been here almost every day since new rules went into effect January 1 that require a passport to return to the USA when traveling to most North American destinations, including the ever-popular Caribbean.

passport office line
To the very end of the block

I know I’ve watched this line grow since our office moved to 19th and M Street and even created a Passport Line Flickr Set.

The Washington Post finally felt it was a news story on June 15th, and since then it is covering the scene almost daily with reports of the government reaction to the unfolding drama.

My favorite government reaction so far is to ask Foreign Service consular workers who are on home leave in the US to volunteer at their nearest agency. Al Kamen had a great response to that idea in today’s Post:

So sign up “if you are interested in helping your colleagues,” Maura Harty said, “and in gaining new insight into the important world of domestic passport processing.” Nothing like insight. And you can watch as some of the hundreds of thousands of rabid passport seekers try to jump the counter to rip your lungs out.

After that, you can work for the D.C. DMV.

Because that is exactly the level of frustration I felt as I walked along the line this morning. People were pissed. And not at the Passport Agency, but at the Congress for enacting the change without thinking of the consequences – a long ass line that angers voters.

passport office line
Bring chairs, you’ll need em!

I too am frustrated with this process. I travel. A lot. And I wanted to renew my now-delaminating passport at a US Embassy overseas, like I did with my last passport.

The US Embassy in Hong Kong issued me a brand new passport in 3 hours on a Friday afternoon in 1999. Now, post 9-11, embassies no longer issue passports – you have to renew them via the Passport Agency (what a crap name, by the way).

And so I am facing the Passport Agency line myself in preparations for another business trip to Lebanon.

Here’s hoping a passport expediter can keep me out of the line…

4 Comments so far

  1. Ex-Hy Hy (unregistered) on June 20th, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

    The other day I watched a very aggressive and somewhat inappropriate (i.e. “miss, you look REAL good”) bum harassing every single person in this line. He’s lucky some frustrated applicant didn’t haul one into his jaw. Why the security guards didn’t move him along is beyond me… oh yeah, that’s because Dupont is bum heaven. I forgot.


  2. Anon (unregistered) on June 20th, 2007 @ 4:26 pm
  3. Don (unregistered) on June 20th, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

    Yeah the article in the Times could have used pictures like this to drive home the reality. Crazy.


  4. MBFan#2 (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 11:03 am

    Check this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the passport problem.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/06/11/EDGHBQC4131.DTL

    As an inhabitant in this fine area we call Washington, it’s kinda embarrassing thinking that the rest of the country associates this debacle by the current Administration with the city – i.e. “…why did Washington louse things up so badly to begin with”?



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