Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 16, 2010

Border Traffic Numbers In A Perspective

Whew, all that good news about the border traffic numbers increasing massively over the last few months must feel like good news to Transport Canada's Sean O'Dell and the DRIC supporters who will be trooping over to the Detroit Chamber offices for their big pro-DRIC rally on Friday.

I hope Sarah Hubbard keeps that list I asked of her of attendees. I want to see how correct I am that the usual suspects will be there.

Then the Ambassador Bridge Company goes and spoils it all by issuing a Press Release that tells us what the numbers really mean:

  • Ambassador Bridge traffic up, delays down

    WARREN, Mich. – Traffic crossing the Ambassador Bridge increased 11 percent in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the depressed levels of automobiles and trucks using the bridge during the same three-months of 2009.

    The Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC), which owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge, said the increase was more a reflection on extremely low levels of traffic at all border crossings during the first quarter of 2009, caused by the global economic crisis and near shutdown of the automobile industry at that time.

    “We are happy that the increase in traffic during the first quarter shows the economy is better than it was last year and we hope the trend continues,” said DIBC President Dan Stamper. “Even if traffic continues to hold at higher levels, 2010 will be on track for the second-worst year over the last decade.”

    The Ambassador Bridge is the No. 1 international crossing in North America and it alone carries more than one-quarter of the trade between the United States and Canada.

    First quarter traffic this year was down 12 percent compared with 2008 and down 44 percent from 2000.

    Most of the first quarter increase was truck traffic, which was up 22 percent compared with 2009. But truck traffic in the first three months of 2010 was 15 percent lower than 2008 and 30 percent lower than 2000.

    Automobile traffic in the first quarter was up just 5 percent from 2009, but 9 percent fewer autos used the bridge compared with the first three months of 2008 and 51 percent fewer than in 2000.

    “It is interesting that the increase in traffic we had at the Ambassador Bridge, particularly with trucks, corresponds with a doubling of toll rates at the Blue Water Bridge, where traffic was up at a lesser rate,” Stamper said.

    Average wait times for passenger and commercial traffic crossing the Ambassador Bridge was well below 9 minutes in 2009 and significantly below the 70-minute average wait times that occurred in 2002 in the aftermath of 9/11, when U.S. and Canadian government inspectors increased border security.

    Working closely with federal authorities on both sides of the border, the Ambassador Bridge added additional inspection booths, parking areas and pre-processing centers for commercial vehicles and made electronic processing assistance available. Wait times at the Ambassador Bridge plummeted as a result.

    Analysis of internal hourly data on wait times from January 2010 shows that wait times for passenger cars traveling to Canada using the Ambassador Bridge exceeded 9 minutes only 4 percent of the time. Trucks going to Canada experienced wait times exceeding 9 minutes only 3 percent of the time. Wait times for cars and trucks entering the U.S. from Canada had wait times exceeding 9 minutes less than 1 percent of the time.

Yes, I know that cars are not trucks. However, if only the Bridge Company had mentioned as well what Crains did to demonstrate that the increase in traffic for the region overall was not all that it is cracked up to be when looking at what the Tunnel lost and the Bridge gained, then the story would have been complete:

  • "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."

And I hope David Bradley is there to talk about his perspective about empty trucks and how his members will be pleased to pay the huge DRIC tolls considering he whinged about the tolls increasing at the Blue Water Bridge:

  • "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."