US-Canadian traffic stagnant - trucks up a bit, cars continued decline

March 16, 2010
By Peter Samuel

Truck traffic at the US-Canadia Ontario border show signs of recovery this year but this is offset by continued decline in passenger vehicles, leaving total traffic numbers about level-pegging with last year. January and February traffic numbers from the eleven toll crossings of the Public Border Operators Association (PBOA) between the states of Michigan and New York with Ontario show total truck traffic up nearly 12% from 907k (15.4k/day) Jan-Feb 2009 to 1,015k (17k/day) Jan-Feb 2010.

But buses and cars are still in decline, buses by 10% and cars by 3.1%, so total traffic is 4,614k (78.2k/day) v 4,623k (78.4k/day), down 0.2%.

Revenues of course will be up because the trucks pay a multiple of the toll rate of cars, but from a  low level.

Back in 2006 Jan+Feb saw 5,995k (102k/day) vehicles or 30% higher than the same two months this year (2010) and last (2009). We could report the same numbers as: we're down 23% on 2006.

Ambassador the biggest crossing

Detroit's Ambassador Bridge truck traffic is up nearly 20% to a daily 6851 Jan+Feb 2010 from 5725/day in the first two months of last year. But that compares with an average daily 9584 over the whole of 2006. For the whole of last year (2009) the daily truck traffic at the Ambassador was 6285, 34% lower than 2006. The 6851 in the Jan+Feb 2010 are running 28% down on 2006.

Blue Water Bridge upstream on the Detroit River from Detroit was doing 4500 trucks daily in its peak year. Last year averaged 3670, down 18.5%. This year so far (59 days for Jan and Feb) average daily truck traffic (not seasonally adjusted) is almost exactly the same 3765, but it's a big advance on the same two months of 2009 when they did 3164 or 17% fewer (so perhaps seasonal adjustment is needed.)

Peace Bridge in Buffalo NY has a small increase in truck traffic from 2958 in Jan+Feb 2009 daily to 3118/day in the same two months this year, a 5.4% increase.   That's still lower than 2006 and 2007 when truck traffic daily was averaging 3500 to 3600.

Queenston-Lewiston up the Niagara River from the Peace Bridge is doing 1754 trucks per day average this year so far, almost identical to the same two months last year. In 2006 it was doing a daily 2580, so it's down 32%.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel with stringent size limits on trucks is mostly a cars crossing. They've suffered badly. Average daily traffic this year has been just 9.6k compared to 11.5k/day in the first two months of 2009.  They were doing 15k/day back in 2006.

Ambassador Bridge car traffic is up this year so far 6% to a daily 10.7k v 10.1k in the first two months of 2009. They are down from 16.7k/day through 2006.

US-Canada trade and hence trucking has been heavily hit by the decline in mid-west automobile manufacturing with the collapse of GM and Chrysler and by the chronic decline of the Michigan and New York economies and population.

Trade and tourism is also hampered by ever more burdensome border security checks against terrorism.

Overall traffic (trucks, cars and buses) at the eleven Ontario/NY,MI crossings is about level with same two winter months last year at 78k/day, and the daily average for the full year 2009 of 90.4k. But this is over 21% down on the 115k/day average in 2006.

PBOA spreadsheet used for this article:

SUMMARY: Signs of some bottoming are there, and also signs of the beginnings of an improvement in truck traffic. But car traffic remains weak.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-03-16

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