Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Playing With Border Truck Numbers

Seriously, have you ever seen Bridge Company traffic numbers receiving as much publicity as they have been over the past few months.

Naturally, you are seeing them as traffic numbers increase by such high percentages. I don't recall seeing them as much in the headlines as volumes were tanking. Makes Sean O'Dell feel good I bet.

But here is a math example for you:

If your high was 100 trucks per day and your low was 50 trucks per day, then a 20% increase in volume from your low is still only 60 trucks per day.

Of course this is all propaganda designed to convince Michigan Legislators that there is a need for the DRIC Bridge. How do I know, mini-Gord revealed it:
  • "Truck traffic crossing the Ambassador Bridge is up 22 per cent this year, the Detroit Chamber of Commerce said Monday.

    Truck traffic shot up by 25 per cent in March, for more than 1,500 extra trucks per day. Passenger car traffic is also up over 2009, the chamber said.

    Since the economic recovery has just started, traffic is likely to continue to grow.

    The traffic increase belies the repeated claims of environmentalists, the Ambassador Bridge and other opponents with an economic interest in blocking or delaying the badly needed new road and new bridge."

The Detroit Chamber is impartial? Hardly. Just remember the Sarah Hubbard interview I Blogged

And the Chamber's endorsement of DRIC in this unbelievable statment:

  • "We favor the DRIC," said Sarah Hubbard, the Detroit chamber's vice president of governmental relations. "We don't oppose the Ambassador Bridge overtly. And, if they build a second span, we could live with it. But we support the bi-national effort of the DRIC."

How does she oppose the Ambassador Bridge project, covertly?

Heck, even David Bradley of OTA, another supporter of the DRIC bridge, casts some doom over these increase in numbers:

  • "there's still a long way to go to return to peak levels, observers say.

    "It's a hopeful sign but I don't think we're out of the woods yet and I do think there's a long way to go to recoup the traffic that has been lost," said David Bradley, president of the Ontario Trucking Association.

    "How filled are these trucks? It's one thing to have trucks crossing, we're glad to see those numbers pointing in the right direction. I still think there's still some issues in terms of balance of trade across the border and therefore making sure those trucks are filled both ways."

I wonder why no one has publicized this since I saw it in Crains only:

  • "Car and truck traffic at the bridge is up slightly more than 11 percent through March, an increase of 167,192 vehicles to 1,663,965 from 1,496,773 at the same point last year.

    Tunnel traffic, however, is down more than 15.5 percent for the year, to 886,477 from 1,049,865. That’s a decline of 163,388 vehicles over the first 90 days of the year."

[UPDATE: also pubished similar stats on March 16.]

In other words, almost no net gain, just a shift in traffic. Hardly an endorsement for an economic revival. Hmmm, maybe that is why the Tunnel Plaza Improvements have never been done. Make it hard for people and commerce to use the Tunnel to keep the Bridge numbers high even in this near-Depression!

But let us take a different perspective on all of this. Let us accept a comment as true what was said in the Detroit News:

  • "Supporters of a new bridge believe traffic, especially truck traffic, will continue to improve as the economy improves."

So what would be the timetable for considering the DRIC Bridge again. Decades from now at the earliest. Why:

  • "Pew study: Michigan on track for California-style money woes

    Detroit News Lansing Bureau

    Recession-rocked Michigan is one of nine states on the verge of a California-style economic disaster, according to a report released today by the Pew Center on the States.

    The Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank found that after the auto industry collapse plunged this state into recession in 2001, from which it has never recovered, leaders here have failed to modernize the tax code, have used temporary solutions to resolve budget deficits and have been slow to diversify its auto-reliant economy.

    "Michigan's recovery is going to be a long haul," the report says. "Even if the state were to immediately begin growing at the rapid rates of the 1990s, it would be 2025 or 2030 before it replaced all the jobs it lost this decade.

    "The state will have lost more than a million jobs by the end of this decade, more than a third of those this year, and 268,000 of them in the auto industry. The state's 15.3 percent unemployment rate is highest in the nation...

    "The recession accelerated drops in state revenues and has left Michigan's government trying to deal with today's problems on a 1960-sized budget," the report says.

    The state has not come to grips with the fact that it is no longer one of the nation's most prosperous states, according to the study.

    In addition, the state's aging population and "generous income tax exemptions for pensions and other retirement income" will take a toll on future revenues.

    "In 20 years, we're going to look like Florida does now if the demographic trends continue, and no one's going to be paying taxes except those that are working," Michigan House Fiscal Agency Director Mitchell Bean told Pew researchers."

Why are the numbers 2025 and 2030 so interesting? Go back and read my BLOG "Place Your Bet In The DRIC Bridge Completion Pool

As I Blogged:

  • "Sen. Cropsey’s chief of staff, John Lazet, told the Journal of Commerce that falling commercial and passenger traffic now and into the future, and Michigan’s current years of economic distress, mean billions should not be poured into an unnecessary publicly-owned bridge when Moroun wants to build a span adjacent to his present bridge. Lazet said a regional transportation authority in southeast Michigan projects DRIC construction could take until 2025 to complete...

    In October, 2009, SEMCOG was now looking at the 2021-2025 time period for DRIC.

    That did trigger a memory:

    "Stuedle said construction on the bridge needs to begin somewhere between 2015 and 2030 depending on traffic flow."

    That meant completion around 2035-2037 now! That seemed more likely since it was consistent with a recent Pew Center on the States...

    And here was what was said at the Cropsey hearing that fits in as well to a much later start:

    "Algurabi: We believe we need ten lanes. Now the need for it, it varies. Again it’s based, I’m told its more of an art than it’s a science, at least traffic projection. When you’re looking at that the need could begin as early as 2025, or could be as late as, I believe its 2015 all the way to 2035 that the need will be, will be there and you’ll have to have it. But the time to plan for it and have it in place, you can plan for it, then you gotta plan for it in advance"...

    We legitimately can now go out as far as say, 2040. And that is outside the DRIC study period so we may need to start all over again and get new dates taking into acount today's economic reality."

So keep on expecting to see these traffic number headlines, at least until early June when the Michigan legislators have to make a DRIC decision.

And don't worry if numbers go down again. DRIC will haul out Windsor's Mayor who can justify the fall as he did the Tunnel's disastrous decrease in numbers by bringing out the old chestnuts:

  • "Numbers for the Windsor-Detroit tunnel showed a drop of 15.9 per cent in passenger vehicle crossings from January to March of this year compared to last.

    Mayor Eddie Francis, the chairman of the city's tunnel commission, said the combined effects of the stronger Canadian dollar and new passport regulations are still being felt."