Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Strong Canadian Dollar, not fuel cost, drives travel to US in Metro Vancouver

Last December, I compiled information about US-bound person vehicles crossing the border in the Lower Mainland. You can read the full post for more details, but at the time I was trying to see if there was a strong correlation between TransLink fuel tax, and an increase in people heading to the US. I didn’t find a strong correlation.

With the declining value of the Canadian dollar this last year, I thought it would be interesting to see what impact, if any, the lower dollar value would have on US-bound person vehicles entering from the two Blaine, Lynden, and Sumas border crossings. Because I wanted to compare the most recent information, all the chart data is for the month of June between 2001 and 2015.

Border Crossing Metrics for the Lower Mainland, Month of June, 2001-2015. Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Statistics Canada. Table 326-0009 - Average retail prices for gasoline and fuel oil, by urban centre, monthly (cents per litre), CANSIM; CanadianForex Monthly Average Rates

Even as the cost of fuel climbed between 2001 and 2005, the amount of vehicles going into the US actually dropped. It wasn’t until the Canadian dollars’ value increased past 90¢ to a US dollar that border volumes started a steady climb. Interesting, it wasn't until the Canadian dollar dipped below the 90¢ mark this year that border volumes started to drop again.

It may seem that the cost of fuel plays a large part in US border travel from Metro Vancouver, but between 2001 and 2005, fuel prices rose while border volume dropped. Between 2008 and 2009, fuel prices dropped while border volume increased.

While the cost of fuel plays a small role in US-bound travel, having a Canadian dollar that is worth more than 90¢ US influences US border crossings the most.

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