The rate of global economic growth and the integration of trade, finance and manufacturing have increased greatly over the last two decades. Transportation plays a vital role in the changing global economy, linking people and places, facilitating trade and tourism and encouraging economic competition and specialization. The North American1 experience mirrors these worldwide trends. Reduced trade barriers and increasingly mobile populations have created a heightened need for information on transportation infrastructure and services within and across Canada, Mexico and the United States. Two major initiatives, the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA)2 and the subsequent North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),3 were significant milestones in the liberalization of trade in goods and services between the three countries of this continent.

An effective, efficient and safe transportation system is critical to any nation's economic growth, the mobility of its citizens and its national security. Each day, governments, businesses and consumers make countless decisions about where to locate facilities and make investments, what to ship, which transportation mode to use and how and where to travel on business or for pleasure. Transportation provides the links between businesses, industries and consumers, and the merits of transportation go beyond the national borders of any one country. While the positive contributions of transportation to the national economies and to the daily life of people everywhere are quite important, transportation also has some adverse impacts. Transportation uses significant amounts of energy, mostly derived from petroleum, and is also a major cause of death and injury every year. This report strives to present a balanced picture of the benefits transportation confers as well as the impacts it has.

The effectiveness and efficiency of national and North American transportation relies heavily on sound information. Within and across countries, comprehensive transportation information makes knowledgeable decisions possible, on personal, corporate and national policy levels. Accurate data, comparable across modes and countries, is important in order to make effective investments with scarce resources; to understand changes in dynamic transportation markets; to evaluate transportation benefits and impacts; and to support critical decision-making in the public and private sectors. In short, accurate, comprehensive and timely transportation-related information is a key component in business, government and personal decisionmaking.

A trilateral initiative, the North American Transportation Statistics Interchange (Interchange), first identified a need for a compendium of transportation and transportation-related data for Canada, Mexico and the United States. The Interchange is an initiative between the transportation and statistical agencies of Canada, Mexico and the United States, and provides a forum for the exchange of information and for the discussion of topics and issues related to transportation statistics in and among the participating countries. The first Interchange meeting was held in November 1991, and regular meetings have been held since then.

In addition to promoting closer working ties between the transportation and statistical agencies of the three countries, the Interchange has led to a number of key projects, including: the joint Canadian and U.S. development of the Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG), the resolution of data inconsistencies in transborder merchandise trade data and the exchange of ideas on the development of national reports. Trilateral cooperation between the three countries also led to the development of the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), provided for an exchange of ideas on how to improve and standardize the handling of transportation data in national economic accounts, and resulted in an agreement to jointly develop a project on North American transportation statistics. Since 1997, a tricountry working group has been coordinating the work of this later project. Participating agencies include Statistics Canada and Transport Canada from Canada; the Secretaría de Communicaciones y Transportes (Ministry of Communications and Transportation), the Instituto Mexicano del Transporte (Mexican Institute of Transportation) and the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI) (National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics) from Mexico; and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau from the United States.

The North American Transportation Statistics project has had a number of key objectives. These are: (a) to identify key information that will help provide a comprehensive view of transportation in North America, (b) to characterize transportation activity and impacts across and between Canada, Mexico and the United States, (c) to reveal specific data comparability differences within and across countries, (d) to identify data and information gaps and (e) to begin discussions for reducing comparability differences and data gaps through cooperative activities. This report, North American Transportation in Figures, is one of the outcomes of this project, and represents the second joint effort by the three countries to develop a statistical report related to transportation.4 It is expected that the information will be updated on a periodic basis, giving users a recognized source for transportation and other related data in a North American context.

North American Transportation in Figures provides a comprehensive overview of transportation statistics in North America. English, French and Spanish editions of the report are available. The report includes data for 1990, 1995 and 1996, the latest years for which comparable data are readily available. All of the value data are reported in current U.S. dollars. All measurement units are in metric.5 Users should note that, for the sake of greater comparability across the three countries, data categories and definitions were extensively reviewed and modified when necessary. Therefore, some of the data categories and definitions used in this report may not always correspond to those used in the specific national publications of Canada, Mexico and the United States. Users, who require data in original categories, currencies or measures, a complete time series or other additional information, may contact the appropriate source agency in each country.

Each language edition of the report contains over 90 data tables, supported by graphs, figures, maps and a number of appendixes. Appendix A includes an overview of the transportation statistical system in each of the three countries, including information on specific agencies and their roles and responsibilities for transportation data. In most cases, Appendix A also provides web site addresses where additional detailed information is available for specific data sets and series. Appendix B provides additional technical notes for each of the data tables, and explains the differences in data sources, survey methodologies, collection approaches and definitions among the three countries. Information provided here supplements footnotes included on individual tables. Appendix C contains additional reference charts, including: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) exchange rates used, state and provincial abbreviations, U.S.-metric conversion ratios, land border crossing ports and the Harmonized Schedule for international merchandise trade at the two-digit level. Appendix D provides selected tables in U.S. measures.

North American Transportation in Figures contains twelve thematic sections. Section 1, Country Overview, sets the context of the report with an overview of each country: population, labor force, physical area and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Section 2, Transportation and the Economy, draws a comprehensive picture of the impact that transportation has on the economic indicators of each country (including GDP), government expenditures for transportation, and transportation employment. Section 3, Transportation Safety, provides critical information on fatalities and injuries by mode. Fatality and injury rates for road and air also are included. Section 4, Transportation, Energy and the Environment, responds to current energy and environmental concerns, and includes tables on energy consumption, fuel costs and emission control requirements. Section 5, Domestic Freight Activity, summarizes freight activity by mode, by major commodity and by major origin/destination pair. Sections 6 and 7 provide data on North American merchandise trade and international merchandise trade between North America and the rest of the world. For Section 6, each country decided to use its own merchandise trade data. Thus, there will be statistical differences when comparing, for example, Canada's data for trade with the United States and the United State's data for trade with Canada. Section 7 represents international merchandise trade for each country, excluding trade with the other North American countries. Sections 8, 9 and 10 provide data on domestic, North American and international passenger travel. Section 9 presents a picture of North American travel with information about the type of travel (overnight versus same-day), mode of transportation used and trip purpose. Section 10 provides data on international passenger travel between North America and the rest of the world. Section 11, concentrates on transportation infrastructure and its use in each country. Section 12, Transportation Vehicles, provides a detailed inventory of transportation vehicles and equipment and summarizes domestic movements, in terms of vehicle-kilometers, by mode.

A number of standard symbols were adopted for use on the statistical tables. These are as follows:

C = Data are confidential
N = Data are nonexistent
NA = Not applicable
NS = Not significant
U = Data are unavailable
e = Data are estimated
p = Data are preliminary
r = Data are revised

In addition, the unit "billions" in this edition equates to "thousand millions" in the Spanish edition, and one millard in the French edition.

An electronic version of North American Transportation in Figures, including downloadable spreadsheet files, also will be available on the web sites of the agencies involved in the North American Transportation Statistics project. The specific agency addresses are as follows:


Statistics Canada

Transport Canada


Instituto Mexicano del Transporte (Mexican Institute of Transportation)

Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI, National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics)

Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (Ministry of Communications and Transport)

United States

Bureau of Transportation Statistics,
U.S. Department of Transportation

U.S. Census Bureau,
U.S. Department of Commerce

End Notes

1For the purposes of this report, North America will refer to the countries of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

2The FTA entered into force on January 1, 1989.

3NAFTA entered into force on January 1, 1994.

4In December 1999, a brief summary report, North American Transportation Highlights, was published based on the work and data included in this report, North American Transportation in Figures.

5Conversion ratios to U.S. measures are included in Appendix C. Appendix D reports data in U.S. measures for specific tables.