California-Baja California Border Crossing and Trade Data
Highlighting the significance of crossing volumes and trade through the California-Baja California megaregion pre and post-COVID 19
The California–Baja California binational megaregion benefits from a rich economic, social, and cultural exchange occurring daily through flows of people and goods between the United States and Mexico. The influence of crossborder travel and bilateral trade sets the megaregion apart and enables a distinct economic competitiveness, dynamic cultural identity, and close binational collaboration it's become known for. Tracking border crossing trends through data is critical to understanding how this exchange influences our economy, transportation systems, border communities, and informing the region's approach for advancing mobility and quality of life in the border region.
This report provides a high-level analysis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions on crossborder movement. Also provided is an interactive datatool for visualizing volumes of people, vehicles, and international trade crossing through the seven existing land Ports of Entry (POEs) between the states of California in the U.S. and Baja California in Mexico.
Map of California-Baja California POEs
Border Crossing Volumes Before and After COVID-19
Historically, crossings of people, vehicles, and trade through the binational megaregion's POEs have reflected the close integration of populations, economies, and livelihoods on either side of the border and have fluctuated in response to various factors, such as population growth in the border region, economic activity, changes in U.S. Homeland Security and Customs security policy, and general seasonality due to holidays, school breaks, events, as well as others. General trends over the last two decades show total crossings of people through California–Baja California POEs reached a peak between the late 1990s and early 2000s, followed by a period of decline from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s. Since then total crossings of people gradually rebounded and began nearing the peak volumes recorded in the early 2000s. Bilateral trade and volumes of commercial trucks through these facilities have generally shown consistent growth despite a brief decline due to the 2008-2009 Great Recession.
In 2019, these POEs together accommodated a daily average of more than 200,000 people (including pedestrians and occupants in personal vehicles) and 85,000 personal vehicles in just the northbound direction. In the same year, nearly 4,000 northbound commercial trucks and roughly $180M in bilateral trade moved through these ports each day, representing a record high.
On March 21, 2020, travel restrictions imposed by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic went into effect and limited access into the U.S. to only essential travel, trade, and U.S. citizens and residents returning home. Crossing volumes of all categories were immediately impacted. The most significant declines were seen in April 2020 which showed the pandemic and travel restrictions had caused decreases of 67 percent in crossings of people, 51 percent in crossings of personal vehicles, 25 percent in crossings of trucks, and 44 percent in total dollar value of trade moving through the region's POEs compared to April 2019.
Despite the restrictions, crossborder travel and trade began to rebound shortly after the initial decline. Through the remainder of 2020 overall crossing volumes showed ebbs and flows, as those still allowed to travel into the U.S. often faced an unstable economic environment marked by frequent closures and re-openings of many schools, businesses, and services. By December 2020, after more than nine full months of restrictions, volumes were down 48 percent in terms of people and 30 percent in terms of personal vehicles compared to December 2019. In the same month, volumes of trucks had actually increased by 14 percent while dollar value of bilateral trade had increased 9 percent compared to December 2019.
On November 8, 2021 federal travel restrictions were lifted at the U.S.-Mexico border marking an end to the policy and some relief during a challenging period for the border region's shared population and economy. In December 2021, the California-Baja California POEs were processing an average of over 170,000 people, more than 77,000 personal vehicles, and nearly 4,000 trucks crossing into the U.S., as well as over $185M in bilateral trade each day.
Despite many challenges the region's crossborder dynamic proved to be a vital part of the resiliency, response, and ongoing recovery from the wide-reaching effects of the pandemic. Bilateral trade through the region has and continues to be a key strength for both the U.S. and Mexico, and through the pandemic provided a much needed counter balance to economic instability felt around the world. While total volumes of people crossing the border are still gradually climbing back to near pre-pandemic levels, trends seen in the data through the period of travel restrictions are evidence of a truly crossborder population made up of U.S. citizens, residents, and essential workers that contribute to our region regardless of their country of residence.
"Against a backdrop of global pandemic and a highly restricted border environment, the hundreds of thousands of people, tens of thousands of vehicles, and millions of dollars in trade crossing daily demonstrates interdependence and deeply linked economic, social, and cultural realities on both sides of the border."
(Graphs above display monthly data from January 2018 to December 2021.)
Explore the Data
The data in this report is gathered from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which reports information based on data collected from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as the U.S. Census Bureau. Data is presented in four main categories:
- Northbound crossings of individuals (or people) including pedestrians and vehicle occupants
- Northbound crossings of privately owned vehicles (POVs)
- Northbound crossings of commercial vehicles (or trucks)
- Dollar value of bilateral trade (imports and exports in USD) carried via truck
You can view explore the dataset on the open data portal here.
- Data for border crossing volumes are specific to northbound movements as U.S. CBP (and subsequently BTS) only report U.S.-inbound trips of people and vehicles.
- Bus passengers, which typically represent less than 1 percent of all individuals crossing northbound, are included within the pedestrian totals as they are required to disembark the bus before entering the U.S. and enter the pedestrian processing lanes to clear CBP inspections.
- Data on trade value includes bilateral (imports and exports) between the U.S. and Mexico.
- Trade value data is reported as nominal totals and is not adjusted for inflation.
- Trade value data is reported for goods carried via commercial truck as this mode carries 98 percent of all goods (measured in dollar value) moving through the land ports of entry between California and Baja California.
Plans, Research, and Projects Advancing Border Mobility
Explore the links below to learn about some of the recent plans, research, and projects SANDAG and partner agencies in the border region are investing in to deepen our understanding of the border dynamic, form strategies, develop plans, and implement projects transforming how we facilitate the crossborder movement now and in the future.
Planning Documents and Research:
- San Diego Forward: The 2021 Regional Plan (2021 Regional Plan)
- 2021 Regional Plan - Appendix J: Megaregion and Borders Planning and Collaboration
- 2021 Regional Plan - Appendix Y: Goods Movement Planning and 2021 San Diego and Imperial Counties Freight Gateway Study Update
- 2021 California-Baja California Border Master Plan
- 2022 South Bay to Sorrento Comprehensive Multimodal Corridor Plan
- 2015 Pedestrian and Bike Transportation Access Study
- 2021 Impacts of Border Delays at California-Baja California Ports of Entry Study
- 2019 Crossborder Travel Behavior Survey
Infrastructure and Mobility Projects:
- State Route 11 / Otay Mesa East Port of Entry
- Border to Bayshore Bikeway
- South Bay Rapid Bus Service and Otay Mesa Transit Center
- Advancing Border Connectivity Project
- Calexico Intermodal Transportation Center
- Calexico East Port of Entry Bridge Widening Project
- (COMING SOON) San Ysidro Mobility Hub Project
To stay up to date and join the conversation visit the Borders Committee and Committee on Binational Regional Opportunities (COBRO) webpages for upcoming meeting agendas.
Use the North American Freight by Port visualization dashboard to learn more about commodities moving through California as well as other U.S. land ports. This dashboard provides interactive data on the value and weight of international trade shipments between the U.S. and Mexico and Canada and can be filtered by month, commodity type, U.S. state, port of entry, mode of shipment, trade type (U.S. export or import), and also provides temporal comparison based on your selections.