Study shows decline in border traffic

Published on Thu, Aug 12, 2010 by By Tara Nelson

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A year after the final implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and nearly two years after the economic meltdown of 2008, cross border travel – especially from Canada – has declined overall, according to a recent study by Western Washington University’s Border Policy Research Institute (BPRI).

BPRI researcher David Davidson said while both the WHTI legislation and the economic slowdown have had expected impacts on cross-border travel, traffic counts at the Canadian border exhibited “an exceptionally large decline” of 15.7 percent in June of 2009, following the WHTI implementation deadline. In the months immediately following, however, WHTI had less of an impact.

“Although WHTI appeared to cause an effect in June of 2009, and we estimated that at about a 7 percent impact border-wide, WHTI had a lesser impact and the current economic conditions had a greater impact,” he said. 

“Looking at the gasoline usage as a whole, people are driving less in 2009 and 2010 than they did before the meltdown so it’s not surprising the same is true going across the border. So it’s more likely the decline in border traffic is attributable to the economy and less to do with WHTI.”

In the two months preceding June 2009 and the two months following, Davidson said the comparable month declines were all within the average range of 8.4 to 8.9 percent.

Other findings
The study also found that peak season travel into the United States from Mexico and Canada had dropped from nearly 7.5 million in July 2008 to 7 million in July 2009, citing figures from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Canadian border traffic exhibits a greater degree of seasonal peaking than does Mexican border traffic. Canadian traffic reaches a peak in July or August and then ebbs to a low point in February, the study found.

Mexican border traffic, however, had decreased 23 percent with 5.8 million in 2009 as opposed to 7.6 million in 2005. Davidson said part of that change was attributable to distinct border cultures and economies there, including a pattern of “paired cities,” in which two cross-border cities share a cultural and economic fabric.

The entire document is available online at www.wwu.edu/bpri.