US-Canada toll traffic - modest improvement, trucks & $s up better (PBOA)

April 11, 2010

Total traffic at US-Canada toll border crossings in the first three months of the year is up a feeble 1.4% to 7.45m vs 7.35m Jan-Mar 2009. Public Border Operators Association (PBOA) statistics issued last Friday - these cover the eleven toll crossings of Ontario with New York and Michigan - showed a March uptick of 4% over March 2009. Back in 2006 Jan-Mar traffic was 9.48m.

The good news about toll revenue and trade is that truck traffic is doing the growing. The drag is passenger cars and buses which continue to fall somewhat.

Car counts for the first three months were 5.80m vs 5.9m, 102k or 1.7% less than Jan-Mar 2009. And bus counts - tours, conventions, trips to gambling casinos mainly - get worse and worse: 29k v 32k first quarter last year, off by 9%.

By contrast the trucks are coming back with some vigor. They totaled 1.62m this first quarter v 1.42m first quarter 2009, a 14.6% increase. March saw 608k trucks v 510k March 2009, a 19% increase.

Back in 2006 Jan-Mar trucks crossing numbered 2.08m, and cars 7.35m. (NOTE: the caption saying truck backups are a common sight probably dates the picture nearby to several years ago - editor)

Truck tolls average several times car tolls, so there's a revenue increase there 2010Q1 v 2009 Q1 - at least for the truck crossings of course.

Ambassador Bridge, Detroit-Windsor is doing better than average - trucks up 26% this March over last March, 246k v 195k same month last year. Auto industry recovery? For the first quarter of the year Ambassador trucks are 650k v 533k, up 22%.

But still way below pre-bust levels - the 2007 Jan-Mar truck numbers at the Ambassador were 887k.

The Ambassador's overall count is 1.66m for the 2010 Jan-Mar quarter v 1.50m Jan-Mar 2009, 11.2% up.

Blue Water

Blue Water Bridge, the upriver competitor with perhaps more of the long-distance and Chicago-Toronto trucks saw truck traffic in March up nearly 20% and cars up too, by 8%. For the quarter Blue Water ran 352k trucks to 298k the March quarter of 2009. Total traffic for the quarter was 999k this year to 914k Jan-Mar 2009, up 9.3%.

Back in 2006 Jan-Mar was 1,194k of which 424k were trucks.

Car crossings doing poorly

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel - almost all cars and local - is doing horribly. Jan-Mar this year totaled only 886k v 1,050k Jan-Mar 2009, over 15% off. And compare that to 1,427k Jan-Mar 2006.

Moving east to the Niagara River and Ontario-Buffalo New York the Peace Bridge is running a tad fewer cars but more trucks. Trucks were 294k this first quarter to 268k last year, a 9.5% advance. Back in 2006 Jan-Mar the Peace was running 330k trucks.

Niagara bridges flat

Total traffic at the Peace Bridge first quarter was 1,243k just a few hundred different from 2009 Jan-Mar.  Back in 2006 Jan-Mar was 1,488k.

Competitor Queenston-Lewiston is just level pegging too, a couple of percent fewer cars, a couple of percent fewer trucks. Buses there have dropped heavily by 37% - a reflection of the mindless, time-consuming border clearance provoked by Al Qaida.

The Rainbow Bridge by the Falls has flat traffic but the Whirlpool Rapids, a small operation, has some growth.

Here's the PBOA Excel spreadsheet from which we wrote:

TOLLROADSnews 2010-04-11

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