Buffalo Niagara International Bridge Officials Call for NEXUS
Reform to Improve Border Travel, Security
WNY/Southern Ontario NEXUS program enrollment surpasses 205,000 mark, accounting for 15% of total NEXUS enrollments in North America
BUFFALO, NY/FORT ERIE, ON – Today, leaders from the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (PBA) and Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC) called for reforms to improve the NEXUS program, the bi-national trusted traveler program that aims to expedite border crossings.
This push for reform comes as NEXUS usage at the region’s four international bridges reaches an all-time high, with overall NEXUS trips/conveyances rising to nearly 1.6 million in 2016, a significant increase from the previous year. Program enrollees now account for roughly 17 percent of overall border crossings in the region.
“There is more work to be done to enhance the effectiveness of the program, and this year we want to take the success of NEXUS to the next level,” write PBA Chair Sam Hoyt and NFBC Chair Linda McAusland in a joint letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Public Safety Canada (PSC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Their letter outlines a series of reforms to increase NEXUS enrollment, which would result in expedited bridge crossings and enhanced border security.
Studies have indicated that expanding NEXUS usage to 50 percent of travelers at the region’s bridges would essentially eliminate wait times and vehicle congestion. Additionally, NEXUS participants are pre-screened, known travelers. With more people enrolled in the program, Customs officials will have additional time to dedicate to unknown motorists at bridge crossings, leading to greater security.
The PBA and NFBC are urging the DHS, CBP, PSC and CBSA to implement the following reforms:
- Extend the period that NEXUS cards are valid from 5 years to 10 years in order to match current passport validity. This will reduce the processing time and expense for re-enrollments and shorten the time frame for new sign-ups.
- Modernize and simplify the GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) site. The current site is difficult to navigate and a source of frustration for many potential enrollees.
- Reduce the process time from initial application to interview. Currently this time period can often extend at least three-to-four months, which discourages enrollment.
- As applications have already been approved, allow either a CBP or a CBSA officer to conduct the physical (in-person) interview on behalf of both countries. This should speed up the process and reduce costs.
- Ensure CBP and CBSA prioritize and continuously monitor NEXUS booth staffing to open additional NEXUS lanes when needed. It is a major disincentive when NEXUS queues are longer than regular lane queues.
“NEXUS is the best form of border-crossing identification for travelers in Western New York and Southern Ontario,” Hoyt said. “The program is a simple and cost-effective way to expedite and simplify the border-crossing experience. And it is great value because participants are automatically enrolled at no additional charge in TSA–Pre and Global Entry in the U.S. and the expedited CATSA lines at Canadian airports.”
“The growth in NEXUS enrollments and usage is undoubtedly because of the time-savings benefits,” McAusland said. “However, we can’t ignore the substantial opportunity that NEXUS provides our region. There is still so much potential to further decrease wait times and increase security by expanding enrollment to an even greater level.”
In addition to the reforms they’re seeking, PBA and NFBC plan to implement a multi-faceted marketing blitz to attract new travelers to the program. Among other initiatives, they expect to update the NexusNiagara.com website, leverage major events like the NCAA tournament and World Junior Hockey Tournament, conduct direct outreach to major employers, as well as install informational displays at various destinations and more.
In launching this “reform-and-promote” strategy, bridge officials emphasized the success the NEXUS program continues to achieve year-after-year. Milestones in 2016 include:
- NEXUS usage at the Peace Bridge grew to over 940,000 conveyances.
- The NEXUS-only Whirlpool Bridge serviced 512,752 vehicles in 2016.
- Tallies of traffic using NEXUS-only lanes at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge totaled 140,424. Additionally, NEXUS card holders crossing at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in non-NEXUS lanes totaled 65,000.
- NEXUS traffic currently accounts for 23 percent of the total passenger vehicle crossings at the Peace Bridge, a percentage that has steadily increased since program inception.
NEXUS is a bi-national program jointly administered by CBSA and CBP for low-risk, pre-approved travelers into Canada and the United States. The program was first piloted in the year 2000 and reached widespread implementation just three years later. NEXUS now includes roughly 1.4 million trusted traveler enrollees throughout North America.
Enrolling in the NEXUS Niagara program costs $50 for five years. NEXUS identification cards are free for children under 18. For more information, visit nexusniagara.com.
About the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority
The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, a binational bridge authority, has owned and operated the Peace Bridge since 1933. The bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1927, spans the Niagara River between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York, and is a key international border crossing.
About the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission:
A Joint Resolution of the 1938 U.S. Congressional Third Session created the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission The Extra Provincial Corporations Act of the Province of Ontario, Canada licenses the NFBC. Canada and the U.S. are equally represented on the NFBC by an eight-member Board of Commissioners. Initially established to finance, construct and operate the Rainbow Bridge, the Commission proved sufficiently efficient and effective to assume responsibilities for the Whirlpool Rapids (Lower) and Lewiston-Queenston Bridges. The NFBC builds and maintains all facilities for Customs and Immigration functions on both sides of the international border. The NFBC is self-supportive, largely through user fees (tolls) and private-sector tenant leases. NFBC is federally chartered to conduct international commercial financial transactions and issue federal (U.S.) tax-exempt bonds.