US Canada car traffic up 6.6% in 2011, truck traffic flat
By Peter Samuel
Car traffic between the US and Canada was up a healthy 6.6% in 2011, growing to 30.3m from 28.4m in 2010, but truck traffic at 6.7m was flat. Overall traffic was up 5.3% to 37.14m from 35.26m - all numbers here are the eleven toll crossings as compiled by the Public Border Operators Association.
Traffic is still well down on 2006 when there were about 42m total vehicles crossing, 33.45m cars, and 8.27m trucks.
The better news on car traffic is fairly widely spread, but most spectacular at the Niagara Falls tourist crossings. The Whirlpool Bridge crossings were up 27% in 2011, Rainbow Bridge 13%, and Lewiston Queenston bridge up 14%.
Blue Water Bridge 11% up, Sault Set Marie 10% up and Ogdensburg Bridge 16% suggested some local tourist revival too.
Only the big Ambassador and Peace Bridges had small increases in car traffic. Thousand Islands was against the tourist trend about level-pegging.
The stronger car traffic at the border may reflect the Canadian economy which is better than the US, given that country's more market-oriented policies and stronger banking system.
The good news with car traffic is spread across all the regional crossings. At the Detroit-Windsor crossings that cater to Chicago-Toronto/Montreal the three crossings show 5.6% growth (Blue Water the most, Ambassador Bridge the least). The four Niagara River crossings car traffic is up 8.2%, and the three NY-Ontario crossings 4.2%.
By contrast truck traffic remains flat except at the Niagara River where there is a 2.7% increase. That is offset by small continuing decreases in trucks at the St Lawrence and Detroit area crossings.
Detroit hardest hit
The most severe traffic recession from 2006 levels remains in the Detroit area with traffic down 21% on the three crossings compared to 2006 - trucks down 22% and cars 20.5%. The Blue Water Bridge is within 4% of 2006 traffic levels, having a second span available from 1999 onward, making that route subsequently more attractive for long-distance traffic (lanes went from 3 lanes to 6) than the downtown Detroit crossings.
Detroit-Windsor Tunnel traffic is down 30% on 2006 and Ambassador Bridge traffic is 25% lower. Car traffic at the two downtown Detroit crossings is 8.32m in 2011 vs 11.38m in 2006. Truck traffic is 2.66m vs 3.63m in 2006.
The decreases downtown Detroit 2011/2006 are 27%.
Politics dictates putting taxpayer $s on the line for extra capacity where least needed
There are no plans along the border to increase bridge crossing capacity - except of course where the traffic numbers indicate the very weakest case for extra capacity! Politics seem to drive governments inexorably to spend money in Detroit, the very place on the whole border it is least needed!