Spurred by an expanding global economy, increasing disposable incomes, and growing travel and transportation services, international travel to and from the United States rose notably in the last decade. At the same time, changes occurred that affected both the demand for international travel and the supply of transportation services that enabled these flows. As this growth occurred, dominant gateways on the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican borders (Detroit, Buffalo, San Diego (San Ysidro) and El Paso) became key infrastructure points for North American passenger flows. Similarly, leading U.S. airports, such as New York JFK, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, and Miami, served as critical points of entry for international passengers arriving and departing by air. These gateways and their surrounding infrastructure all experienced significant growth in recent years.
The September 11 attacks dramatically affected the United States on many levels, including our transportation system and services, and the effects will be felt for years to come. The travel industry was one of the sectors where this impact was most pronounced, including the demand for international travel as well as its provision by carriers and other service providers. Consequently, several questions will guide thinking about international travel and transportation in the near term: Will past growth rates continue or will they level off? Will patterns of international travel continue or will there be regional and country changes? How will the new security environment and concerns affect demand for international travel? How will the aviation sector respond to these market changes, and how will these affect planning for other transportation services?
The answers to all of these questions are, as of yet, uncertain. However, they will require careful monitoring and assessment, particularly in light of expected changes to policy and consumer demand. Although the level and nature of U.S. international travel may change in ways unanticipated prior to September 11, it is clear that pressure on border and gateway infrastructure as well as inland transportation systems will continue, especially given new security concerns. Balancing the efficient and effective flow of international travelers with these necessary security requirements will have important implications for transportation policies and planning in the short and long term.