Truck traffic at US-Canada toll bridges continues to be way up on last year. May truck traffic this year was 574k v 480k in May last year, a rise of 19.7%. Year-to-date numbers are not that much behind 2.77m v 2.39m Jan-May 2009, a 15.6% increase. These are monthly data compiled by the Public Border Operators Association and cover eleven toll crossings Ontario to Michigan and New York state. But what does it mean?
There's a new traffic study on possible future traffic at the US-Canada Detroit River crossing that is far less optimistic than the study done for Michigan DOT by Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA). Conducted by British-based international consultants Halcrow the rival traffic study was commissioned by the Ambassador Bridge company.
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.
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.
Maryland officials say recovery in traffic at the state's existing toll facilities will be very slow and longer-term growth prospects must be revised downwards too. They say increasing costs dominated by debt service expense will likely call for major hikes in tolls - from about $2.60 now to $3.60 in 2012 and to $4.50 in 2014 (average statewide toll on existing facilities).
407ETR in Toronto the world's first all-electronic tollroad reports revenues of C$560m in calender 2009 a 2.5% increase on 2008's $546.5m. At C$1=US$0.931 2009 revenue is US$521.4m. (All further $#s are C$s)
Traffic dropped 2.6% to 303.5k/day from 2008's 311.7k/day, average workday trips from 377.9k to 367.3k. But average trip distance was up slightly and vehicle-kms traveled were 2,214.8m down 1.7% on the 2,252.7m of 2008.
New Jersey Turnpike Authority is trying to slim its costs a little - in line with lower traffic. Traffic in the first ten months of the year is down 4.2% on the Turnpike and down 3.0% on the Parkway. The declines are attributed to the weak economy plus unusually wet weather in the summer - seen to depress trips to the NJ coast.
The apparent recovery in traffic in the late summer and fall may be weakening with freight and trucking looking especially shaky in the most recent data. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) combined transportation services index (TSI) - a seasonally adjusted monthly series combining all kinds of transportation - looked to be recovering June, July and August going up a cumulative 2.7% in those three months.
All around the country reporters are tapping out reports that toll agencies (and other highway operators) are "bracing" for a surge of holiday traffic. This is a melodramatic way of saying that the tollers are preparing for extra traffic.
But where's the news?
Leading concessionaire Macquarie report that their weighted average of traffic worldwide was up 1.6% in the last quarter, July-September, an improvement on the low point early this year. Greatest traffic strength was on the APRR motorway network in central France, up 3.4% over last year, and Westlink Sydney up 5.7%. The American pikes were the poor performers in traffic with the exception of Chicago Skyway.