OBPA officials say app required to enter Canada may discourage cross-border travel

Aug. 17—OGDENSBURG — Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority officials say a smartphone app required to enter Canada may be discouraging cross-border travel.

The OBPA Board of Directors had the conversation during a bridge traffic update at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The app, called ArriveCan, is required for all travelers entering Canada. It's free to download from both the Google Play and Apple stores. The user and all travelers in the party have to upload images of their enhanced driver's license or passport, along with proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Within 72 hours of arriving at the border, travelers need to go into the app and generate a ticket before being allowed to enter Canada. The Canadian government had been requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entering the country. Canada dropped that requirement earlier this year.

"That is really putting a damper on cross-border traffic," OBPA Executive Director Steven J. Lawrence said. "Until something changes there, we're going to be dealing with those numbers ... if (the ArriveCan requirement) was eliminated, you'd see an increase in cross-border traffic."

July traffic figures for the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge show auto crossings totaled 34,915. He compared that number to July 2019, when there were 60,506 auto crossings, a 42.3% difference. That's the last year before a dramatic decrease in bridge traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All crossings for July this year totaled 40,375, down from 67,093 in July 2019, a difference of 39.8%. The OBPA took in $121,326 in bridge revenue last month, down from 227,506 in July 2019.

Board member Nicole A. Terminelli said she believes cybersecurity concerns related to the ArriveCan app are stopping some people from going to Canada.

"People are reluctant to put personal information in — your passport, vaccine cards. People just won't do it," she said. "It's definitely a stumbling block to people resuming travel across the border."

Mr. Lawrence added that he believes the app is likely preventing older travelers and "people arriving form the interior of the U.S. (who) aren't aware they need an app."

More information on the ArriveCan app and related requirements are on the government of Canada's website at wdt.me/2oCSbU.