Living, Mexico Essentials, Transportation

How Busy is the US-Mexico Land Border?

The US-Mexico land border is the world’s busiest land crossing.  Data reveal the colossal volume —and types— of crossings traversing the land border each year

US Mexico Border Signpost

Mexico and the United States share a 1,954-mile land border, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.  This land border (parts of which encompass the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo) is the busiest land border in the world and strategically important to both countries for their shared interests in commerce, culture, and tourism.  The movement of people and vehicles across this land space is a cornerstone of the economic well-being of all Mexican and US border states.

The US Department of Transport collects detailed records of border crossings every day and very helpfully makes those data available via its website.

To better understand the scope of these passenger and vehicle crossings, we downloaded the data for 2019 —before the land border became restricted in 2020— to get a handle on how much traffic typically crosses the US-Mexico land border.

This is what the data reveal:

US-Mexico land border crossings by type (2019)

The US DOT’s data classifies ‘crossing types’ into the groups listed in the table below.  The numbers represent ‘crossings’ not unique numbers of people and vehicles.  The data reveal that in 2019 there were:

Crossings Type Volume
Passengers in Personal Vehicles 136,890,096
Pedestrians 49,175,926
Bus Passengers 2,153,331
Train Passengers 9,568
Personal Vehicles 73,085,262
Buses 151,541
Trains 11,673
Trucks 6,440,255
Truck Containers (Full) 4,766,152
Truck Containers (Empty) 1,754,507
Rail Containers (Full) 491,994
Rail Containers (Empty) 607,840

Summary analysis of land border crossings (2019)

There were 239,567,746 passenger crossings in 2019, of which:

  • 188,228,921 (79%) were Passengers in Personal Vehicles; and
  • 49,175,926 (20%) were Pedestrians;
  • there were 2,153,331 Bus Passengers (1%), and
  • 9,568 Train Passengers (negligible %).

There were 79,828,599 vehicle crossings in 2019, of which:

  • 73,085,262 (92%) were Personal Vehicles;
  • 6,591,796 (7.8%) were Commercial Trucks; and
  • 151,541 (0.2%) were Buses.

Related to the transportation of goods by road and rail, in 2019 there were:

  • 6,520,659 Truck Container crossings of which 4,766,152 were full and 1,754,507 were empty;
  • in addition, there were 1,099,834 Rail Container crossings of which 491,994 were full and 607,840 were empty.

Busiest US-Mexico land border crossing points

This table shows the the top 10 border crossings along the US-Mexico land border in 2019, by volume and type.  San Ysidro is the busiest crossing by far, followed by El Paso.  Most of the the annual crossings are made by personal vehicles and their passengers, and pedestrians.

Crossing Name Crossing Type Volume
San Ysidro Personal Vehicle Passengers 25,845,348
El Paso Personal Vehicle Passengers 18,703,243
San Ysidro Personal Vehicles 14,979,363
Otay Mesa Personal Vehicle Passengers 11,372,048
San Ysidro Pedestrians 10,799,398
El Paso Personal Vehicles 10,528,448
Laredo Personal Vehicle Passengers 10,373,765
Brownsville Personal Vehicle Passengers 9,416,489
Calexico Personal Vehicle Passengers 9,005,892
Hidalgo Personal Vehicle Passengers 8,267,555

Data Source: You can learn more about border crossing volumes and types and download the data from the US DOT website.  The data sets also contain crossings between the US and Canadian land border, which are not included in the data presented in this article.

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