US-Canada border traffic plummets with new passport policy

Posted Wednesday, September 9, 2009 12:12 PM | Contributed by Jeff

The number of people crossing the northern and southern land borders into the USA has dropped sharply since a passport requirement began June 1. At Martin's Fantasy Island, about 10 minutes from the Canadian border, "our Canadian business is way off," spokesman Mike McGuire says. Nearly one-third fewer Canadian families of four have come for discounted "Canadian Wednesdays" compared with last year, he says.

Read more from USA Today.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 4:42 PM

^It's a him. And yes, I also thought Eric had lost his (her?) mind before concluding that Baja California is...the other BC. :)

Bottom line: Get a passport...you might end up using it more than you think, just because you have it to use. Just think of it as a FastPass for international travel... ;)

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 5:00 PM

Absolutely. I'm still surprised at how few US citizens have one. You've more or less always needed one to leave North America, and they are good for ten years for adults. Even if you go somewhere every 2-3 years, it's pretty cheap per-trip.

We just got the kids some, not for any specific plans, but just because. Turns out that two weeks later Maureen decided that she'd like to take the kids on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas next February, because they were having a massive sale. I don't think kids strictly need one for that trip, but we didn't even have to think about it. Book it, Dan-O.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 5:30 PM

Few US citizens have one because few citizens leave their home state, let alone region or especially country. I can totally understand, just how many live. I can talk to many friends back home in PA who have made it to NJ, NY, or maybe a flight to FL and that's it. I consider myself lucky to have been to some 30 states and 6 or 7 countries because I'm one of the few I know who have even been out of the region. I had a passport for a trip to Europe years ago and it has since expired because I never got around to renewing it. I just received my new card about 2 weeks ago, which I only bought because of the potential to visit Chris's family in Canada sometime. I hope to go on more trips and such, but I can't see myself affording it any time soon.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 5:42 PM

In all fairness, the US is geographically pretty large, and there's a whole lot of domestic travel to cover without getting bored. I've still only made it to 28 states, though I think you get bonus points for Hawaii. Twice. :)

That said, it's easy to make excuses for not having been off the continent (mine are typically career changes, unemployment, divorce and such), but there are so many places that are so fascinating to me that I can't wait to visit. Most of Europe, Japan, Australia, India... I look forward to seeing these places.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 6:21 PM

janfrederick said:
I wonder if there is a similar effect on the local attractions (attraciones) here in San Diego. Tijuana has 1.5 million potential visitors.

I can't tell if you're joking. Are you really from San Diego? Tijuana has near zero effect on San Diego attractions. You have to a visa approved through the US embassy to travel to the United States from Mexico. Tijuana is one of the poorer areas of Mexico and has few affluent citizens who can afford to travel.

Edit: If you have a US border crossing card and Mexico National passport then you don't need a visa.

Last edited by egieszl, Wednesday, September 9, 2009 6:27 PM
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 9:01 PM

Jeff, you get double extra credit for Hawaii in this crowd, because the total number of roller coasters in Hawaii is 0.

Hmmm...the ASTM F-24 fall meeting is in Toronto. On the one hand, that's close enough that I could drive there. On the other hand, I've been hassled the last two times I've entered Canada, and not only am I not certain where I put my passport, but I am not sure if it is still valid or not......

Living in North America, even living only 150 miles from the border, it just isn't something that comes up that often...and I have family in Portland and Los Angeles now, so I do get around a bit...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 9:14 PM

In response to the question of how much Canadian business MFI gets.....

I do not have the link available, but a couple years ago, MFI was seeking a sales tax exemption from the county to help pay for their new ride (Flight). As part of the filing, they had to explain how the new ride would help them keep drawing in tourists to the region. MFI in turn gave out what % of their attendance comes from Canada. I do not remember the exact number, but it was in the mid-30's %.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 11:04 PM

Lord Gonchar said:
Quick border crosses for realtively mundane leisure activities seem like the kind of thing that people won't bother with to me.

I really think this is correct. The marginal benefit of going across the border for a day of leisure, in either direction, is going to be generally much less compared to getting pictures and paper work and money sorted away for a family of four and I don't think time alone is going to cause that to shift. The whole thing is really unfortunate because there is so much greater good (in so many ways) to be had from keeping the borders open and hassle free and once this sort of policy is instated I think it would be nearly impossible to go in the other direction.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009 11:16 PM

When we went up to CW in July, we hit no traffic and had no problems at the border crossings we used with our new passport cards. We did stay away from the Rainbow Bridge, but the the 2 bridges we did use, were dead.
We noticed quite a few Canadian plates in NY but very few US plates in Canada.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 12:26 AM

I think people who live near borders will probably just start getting the cheap cards, but it will take a bit of time for them to become more common. When I was 16 I decided I wanted a passport so I went to the post office and got one. It's a simple process. I'm glad I did because now I grab deals to Europe ($500 r/t from the west coast including taxes) and Canada when they pop up.

To people who are going to actually travel and actually spend money, is $50 really going to be a deciding factor?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 3:15 AM

I live in Toronto and everyone I happen to know up here has passports. However there's a bunch of them that don't like to travel to the US because the border can be a hassle and seems to have become worse in the last few years. One friend was denied entry into the US because of a charge he was cleared of over 10 years ago. In addition to the hassle he also had to absorb last minute cancel fees for tickets and hotel reservations for a trip to Palm Springs.

I'm a transplant from the US and travel back and forth and of course it can go both ways. I was detained, questioned and had my vehicle searched for about 30 minutes with no reason given other than "just a random check". It's been my only issue at the border but was stressful to say the least. A friend from San Francisco was meeting us up in Whistler with passport in hand, flight, hotel reservations and lift tickets already booked. He was denied entry to Canada because of a DUI conviction going back to the 80s. This obviously isn't the norm but it seems to be a lot more common now.

The border is simply not as friendly as it was just a few years ago. Even with a passport many Canadians would gladly opt for a day at CW or Marineland over dealing with the border to stop over at MFI or DL.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 4:57 AM

For me, I always used to enjoy going up to the casino in Windsor, even after I got old enough for the Detroit casinos. It's only a 45 minute drive, but the money and hassle involved in getting a passport for the one or two random trips a year I'd take there just isn't worth it, so now I just don't go. I could easily go to the Detroit casinos, but I don't care for Detroit, or for giving any money to a government with such prudish views on gambling. But that's a whole different story.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 7:23 AM

Yeah, as a 19-20 year old in SE Michigan, I made countless trips to Windsor, along with quite a lot of other statesiders (the wait for the tunnel would often surpass 90 minutes at 2:00-2:30AM). In fact, there were essentially 2 types of bars on Windsor's "strip" - one for Canadians & one for Americans.

Given the fact that many people in this age bracket aren't exactly World-travelers, I'm not convinced most will bother to get a passport-enhanced ID, or whatever they're called. Sure, most people around here looked forward to the day they could "cross over", but as I'm sure most of you know, its just not that difficult for someone in that age bracket to secure alcohol through other means.

Obviously, Windsor's economy doesn't rely wholly on bars for American kids, but I'd bet at least a few of those bars are going out of business, if they haven't already as a result of it taking longer to cross the border post-9/11.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 7:38 AM

I love Canada's Wonderland. But, I also have been hassled crossing the border. Not so much going to Canada as much as coming back. The 3 times I have gone since 9-11, they have stopped me to search my vehicle. Apparently someone visiting the country to go to a park for a day is suspicious.

<edit to add>

I would rather skip going to Canada for a few years and wait until there is a bit more new for me to do, rather than having to deal with the border crossing.

BTW, I have a passport.

Last edited by Jason Hammond, Thursday, September 10, 2009 7:43 AM
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Thursday, September 10, 2009 9:00 AM

The hassle of crossing the border doesn't even cross my mind. If I want to go to Canada, I go. I just haven't been back since getting a passport.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 9:39 AM

This just came across my email inbox today:

International Programs in Engineering is pleased to sponsor North Campus Passport Day 2009:

Wednesday, September 24, 2009
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Pierpont Commons

The purpose of this event is to raise awareness about international opportunities and to encourage our students to plan early for study, work or volunteer abroad. U.S. Passport Services will be on site to provide one-stop application processing, including photo service. A list of required documents and application details are available on-line: http://www.engin.umich.edu/ipe/highlights/passport2009.pdf

This event is open to all members of the campus community. Please share this announcement with your department faculty, staff and students. Thank you for helping us promote this event.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 1:03 PM

8.3, I believe most of us here aren't saying that the border crossing is a hassle. We're saying that we're being hassled when we cross the border. I can handle the delays, but when I feel like I'm being interrogated every time I cross back to the US and they want to search my vehicle, it's frustrating.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 2:54 PM

Getting your passport isn't that bad. I got mine about two months ago because I though i was going to need it for a new job.

Anyway, my pasport only took about three weeks to get processed (with only the standard processing deal!). Plus, if can spend another $20, you can get a passport card, which is good for land travel btween the US, Canada, and Mexico.

It's not a bad deal.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 3:31 PM

eightdotthree said:
The hassle of crossing the border doesn't even cross my mind. If I want to go to Canada, I go. I just haven't been back since getting a passport.

If you happen to be but in the little office and questioned while a team of guards turns your car inside out, the hassle may cross your mind a bit. Being asked where you're going and the purpose of the visit over a dozen times by a guy in a govt. uniform is a bit disturbing actually.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 4:44 PM

Ensign Smith said:
Did anybody else read that and the first thing that popped in their head was 'British Columbia'? I almost posted to correct her, before it registered.

Check out my full profile. I make for a pretty ugly (oxymoron) "her" ;)

Interesting how the bordering west coast state/province are both BC.

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