*2019 Crossing Stats Available Visit: https://smartbordercoalition.com/blog/facts-and-figures
WAIT TIMES INTO THE U.S. San Ysidro - All Traffic: Vehicles: 0:55 Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: 0:40 Pedestrians: no delay Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: 0:10
Otay Mesa - All Traffic: Vehicles: 0:20 Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: 0:20 Pedestrians: N/A Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: Lanes Closed Cargo Standard: 0:15 Cargo FAST: 0:10
Tecate - All Traffic: Vehicles: 0:20 Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: N/A Pedestrians: N/A Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: N/A
WAIT TIMES INTO MEXICO Tijuana - I-5: 0:11 I-805: 0:09

COVID-19 Bulletin October 5, 2020

Category: SBC Bulletins
The next three months could become the most politically tumultuous period in
many, many decades in the United States. If chaos ensues after November 3,
border restrictions on non-essential travel may very well fall off the national
radar, with no new policy in sight. If cooler heads prevail restrictions may be
addressed and the potential for lifting them will be greater. 

I have been encouraged to see Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Henry Cuellar (TX28), Will Hurd (TX-23), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Michael McCaul (TX-10), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) so outspoken about removing the restrictions. I trust that the California delegation will follow suit and be even more forceful than our neighbors to the east. 

Ironically, some of our Stakeholders say that continuing restrictions have been very good for Tijuana and Baja in general, as consumers spend more on the Mexican side. Has our coalition’s opposition to restrictions been biased to the U.S. side? 

UCSD’s Emerging Stronger Together group convened in late September for its fifth session on “supply chains.” We were all impressed to see that the number of trucks in Otay was 4% above the same time last year and 11% higher in Tecate. 

Saul de los Santos, partner in Axis, a center for strategic intelligence, and Jorge Carrillo, a professor at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, delivered one of the best presentations to date on supply chains and the new workforce development opportunities in Baja California. It’s about more than the automotive, aerospace and medical device industries now. 

The critical question is how our region will prepare the workforce of the future to take advantage of opportunities brought by geopolitical and technological changes. In Tijuana we are seeing the rise of software development, nontechnology and cleantech. We will be better off if San Diego and southern California tech companies see Baja as more than a traditional manufacturing complement. 

I had a wonderful conversation two weeks ago with Enrique Perret, Director of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation and Pati Jinich, of Pati’s Mexican Table, which airs nationally on PBS. They will be doing a prime-time PBS show in the summer of 2021 called “La Frontera” which draws its inspiration from the Anthony Bourdain shows, with more conversation about interesting and controversial topics in the context of food. Please see trailer for La Frontera: link aquí

Increasingly, I believe that private enterprise and civic associations will determine the future of the border. Governments on their own have neither the resources nor the internal political agreements to invest on a large scale to bring modern infrastructure and technologies to our border. The more fluid border we need through such improvements will mean easier cross-border commerce, travel, and flow of ideas and creativity. 

Organizations like the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas can help 3 (www.bushcenter.org/explore-our-work/index.html). It has highlighted the importance of a competitiveness committee outlined in Chapter 26 of the USMCA, a committee conceived to promote regional economic integration. 

The institute is keen on a new mandate for a North American manufacturing platform with an eye to ensuring the continuity of our supply chains even in the midst of a pandemic, a change in political leadership or a geopolitical shock. The manufacturing emphasis cannot ignore major topics such as labor reform, workforce development, and the rule of law.

Tijuana Innovadora is off to the races. It begins October 6th and ends on the 10th . The brainchild of José Galicot, this distinguished program will feature some of the most talented professionals in the world. Please check out the panels and conversations at http://tijuanaeselfuturo.org

On October 1st Uri Levine of Waze fame and a fabulously successful serial entrepreneur did an online Innovadora warm up event from Tel Aviv where he gave us some lessons on startups emphasizing that product/market fit is the key to anything he has done. Entrepreneurs must think about solving a problem first, rather than having a solution from Day One. Sounds like great advice not just for startups!

The Smart Border Coalition is proudly sponsoring the event this year, and I will be part of the October 10th , 3:oo p.m. panel on “Baja Economy: Vision 2040” along with colleagues Luis Lutteroth of Tijuana’s local development council, Gabriel Camarena of Baja’s enterprise coordinating council, and Carlos Higuera of the Tijuana EDC. Luis Hernandez of INDEX will be moderating. 

I was surprised to hear that House of Mexico at Balboa Park still needs funds to get off the ground. One would think that with Tijuana bordering San Diego, the Mexican venue would be the most prominent in the park. Enrique Morones told me that the $427,837.77 price tag still needs $100,000. California Senator Toni Atkins has lent her support, facilitating a grant for nine countries including Mexico and the U.S. territory of Guam. Please go to houseofmexico.net/ to donate. 

Longer-than-usual northbound cargo wait times at Otay Mesa continue to fester. The City of Tijuana, SAT (Mexican customs), and a number of transportation companies and associations devised a road use strategy that promised to separate access points for laden and empty trucks before entering the last-mile export corridor at the port. 

SAT has been adamant about adding the feature of PITA, an automated way to check export documents once the driver reaches the Mexican customs checking area. This has led to a puzzling re-assignment of lane types, engendering confusion and delay. It makes little sense to me why PITA is now being used to name four of the six cargo lanes when “standard,” “empty,” and “FAST/CTPAT” should be the only names allowed. This has led to questionable practices at the access points leading to the export corridor. This is a little murky. 

The “pilot” solution is not working – a real fix is needed!

CEMDI (Centro Metropolitano de Información Económica y Empresarial, cemdi.org.mx/), is Tijuana’s best repository of business and economic information. It provides 195 mobility, economic, and social indicators for the metro area and has had 24,038 visits in 9 months. 68% of these indicators are estimates.

Clearly, there has never been a plan to make it a revenue-producing arm for the local development council. I was glad to participate in a meeting to begin to develop an enhanced a business approach to this valuable tool. 

I have tried to be optimistic about our region enabling a rail crossing in Tecate. Much has been said about the advantages of rail vs. trucks for so many manufacturing operations in Tijuana and for the region as a whole, since cargo would not have to loop back to Long Beach to then head into the eastern U.S.

The theory notwithstanding, in practice our region has missed many opportunities to make this happen. I believe we are seeing one of those once again. 

The old Desert Line from Division to Plaster City has not been in operation for the last 25 years. It is thought that its rehabilitation will require close to a $100 million investment. 

Ever since the state government political transition in Baja California in the fall of last year, there have been questions about the State’s commitment to the project and the fate of Baja Rail, which leases the tracks from San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The company has not paid its lease this year. The rehab should have already started. Speculation is growing, so any public information on clear next steps would help. 

I applaud the State of Baja California for its plan to have a Tijuana interurban train. If completed, it will run for 27.4 kilometers (about 17 miles) and will have two terminals and seven stations. The investment will be in the $130 million range, including 12 train cars. It is anticipated that riders will spend about $3 daily to use it, on average.

It will be successful only if we see a substantial reduction in the current 239 routes in the city shared between taxis and buses. There are almost 1.2 million daily trips in Tijuana. The minimum number of trips to sustain the interurban train would be 60,000. 

I had a chance to be one of the judges for the COVID-19 Data Challenge that Melissa Floca of UCSD is coordinating. I was impressed that we had participants from San Diego, Guadalajara, and Mexico City. I heard pitches from four groups: “Coronapp,” “Handshake Tracker,” “The Risk Calculator,” and “Community Connect: Risk Insights.”

The Future Borders Coalition (www.futureborderscoalition.org/) has a “multiyear mandate to continue the work of accelerating a cohesive border vision based on improvements in technology, processes, facilities, and innovation to drive ahead economic recovery, prosperity, safety and security.”

It is a U.S.-Canadian group that started in the Pacific Northwest in 2018. Its co-chairs are Gerry Bruno, Vice President of Federal Government Affairs, Vancouver Airport Authority (www.yvr.ca/en/about-yvr) and Matt Morrison, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Economic Region (www.pnwer.org/). My conversation with Matt and his colleague Laurie Trautman, head of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University (wp.wwu.edu/bpri/), allowed me to see the great work this tightly knit group is doing

The organization is at the forefront of policy to make the northern border “smarter,” it is an ally of our coalition, and I believe we can jointly advocate for new policies at the northern and southern borders. I’ve never understood why we aren’t more strategic with our Canadian friends, but it’s time to join forces. 

The Tecate border area will experience a new schedule starting soon, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection needs to get it right. Any decision should take into account not just what the union says but also the views of northbound and southbound crossers, from carriers to pedestrians to drivers. The last thing we need is for a reduced schedule that starts too late in the morning, preventing 7 people from arriving early to work and closing too early in the evening, forcing later shift workers to use the Otay Mesa Port of Entry to cross. 

Our online Stakeholders Working Committee meeting will happen November 5 th from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. It will be the last meeting of 2020. You can register here: us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0lceyoqD0rG9DkkJc8b9abcjH1wve9_D8

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Please join us then! 

With best wishes,

Gustavo De La Fuente Executive Director
(619) 814-1386