Border traffic into Whatcom County up 5.7 percent in 2013

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 22, 2014 

Border Traffic Whatcom County

Canadian cars heading into the U.S. line up at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine on Monday morning, Jan 28, 2013.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

It was another big year for southbound border crossings into Whatcom County, but the traffic may start to level off if the Canadian dollar continues to weaken.

Last year more than 16.2 million people crossed the Canada/U.S. border into Whatcom County, a 5.7 percent increase compared to 2012. It's the highest annual total since 1997, according to data compiled by Western Washington University's Center for Economics and Business Research.

Local border traffic has steadily risen since 2008, when 10.7 million people crossed into Whatcom County. A strengthening Canadian dollar and improved traffic flow are two main factors for the nearly 50 percent increase in traffic in the past five years.

The loonie has weakened in the first few weeks of 2014, however, hovering around 91 cents compared to the U.S. dollar on Tuesday, Jan. 21. If it continues to weaken and falls below 90 cents, it could start to impact travel habits of Canadians, said Hart Hodges, director at the Center for Economics and Business Research.

"I would expect southbound border crossings to flatten out or decline very slightly in 2014 with the decline in the Canadian dollar. I don't think we'll see a significant drop until the loonie declines in value further," Hodges said in an email.

It probably would take a significant event or a huge drop in the loonie to change the shopping habits of Canadians coming to Whatcom County, said Gary Vis, executive director at the Lynden Chamber of Commerce. Even as the Canadian dollar weakens, prices are lower in the U.S. for several items, including dairy products and gas.

"The Canadian consumer is very price savvy, so I think they'll continue to come down here," said Vis, adding that ease of travel through the border is also a factor.

CANADIAN TRAFFIC

The number of people traveling southbound through the five Whatcom County border crossings in recent years (numbers are rounded):

2013: 16.2 million

2012: 15.4 million

2011: 14.2 million

2010: 11.8 million

2009: 10.9 million

2008: 10.7 million

2007: 11.3 million

2006: 10.6 million

2005: 10.5 million

2004: 10.5 million

2003: 9.9 million

2002: 9.8 million

2001: 13 million

2000: 14.8 million

SOURCE WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY'S CENTER FOR ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS RESEARCH

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service