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Study details trends among those who cross border in El Paso-Juarez region

“This study has given great insight into cross-border travel patterns that our region has been sorely lacking,” Carlos Olmedo, PhD, Strategic Projects Manager of the City of El Paso International Bridges Department, said. “Knowing who is crossing, why they’re crossing and what they’re buying allows stakeholders and our business community to better identify and meet the needs of the millions of annual cross-border travelers that reside in Mexico.”

The study launched in 2019 by the city’s International Bridges Department in partnership with El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, consisted of surveys that captured cross-border social and economic travel characteristics. “The objective was pretty simple. We lacked data on the cross-border traveler, so we wanted to quantify that,” Olmedo said.

A stratified random sampling methodology was applied and interviews were conducted all days of the week at the Paso del Norte, Bridge of the Americas and Ysleta bridges. The survey period was from October 1, 2019 to March 17, 2020 (it was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The study will resume as soon as conditions allow.

Olmedo said the data could be presented to other stakeholders to develop a business in the El Paso region.

“Destination El Paso, they can always use this data so that when they’re going out there to target or promote El Paso, the hospitality sector, they have a little bit more detail about who is crossing” Olmedo said.

The report of these cross-border profiles can be found by clicking here. An additional study is planned for later this year to obtain an estimate of the monetary impact of purchases by residents from México across the various segments of El Paso’s economy.


  • Most of the people crossing the bridge system are local residents with approximately 96 percent of the crossings made by residents of El Paso and Juárez.
  • U.S. residents are more likely to spend money (of any amount) during each trip across the border but Mexican residents overall make greater monetary expenditures in El Paso because they cross in greater numbers.
  • Two out five Mexican residents cross mainly to shop, one in four for social reasons and one out of five for work-related purposes.
  • Over half of U.S. residents cross for social reasons, almost one in seven for work-related purposes and one in twelve for healthcare visits.
  • Almost four out of five spending visits to El Paso by Mexican residents are retail-related, mainly at clothing, grocery, general merchandise and gasoline stores.
  • U.S. residents who cross into Juárez primarily make purchases at grocery stores and/or restaurants.

Other findings:

  • Women more likely cross to shop, or for family and health visits.
  • Men more likely cross for work-related reasons.
  • Among Mexican residents, social visits are directly correlated with the person’s age; and attending school is indirectly correlated with age; persons 30 years and older are more likely to cross for shopping.
  • Among U.S. residents, social visits are indirectly correlated with age; and health visits are directly correlated with age.
  • Residents from México spend almost twice as much than their U.S. counterparts in the retail trade sector.
  • U.S. residents purchase over four times as much on services as their Mexican counterparts, primarily at restaurants.
  • Among Mexican residents, the middle-aged group (30-49 years) is the largest consumer of U.S. retail and visitor of restaurants.
  • Among U.S. residents, the oldest age group (50+ years) is the largest consumer of Mexican goods and services.
  • Mexican residents of both genders who cross are more likely to be between the ages of 20 and 39.
  • U.S. residents who cross are more likely to be men 50 years and older.
  • Two-thirds that cross stay on the other side of the border from two to nine hours.
  • Ninety percent of vehicle, Ysleta SENTRI and pedestrian crossers believe wait times should not exceed 60, 30 and 45 minutes, respectively.

Cross-Border Travel Impacted by COVID-19 Restrictions. A current travel restriction at the border limits border crossings to only essential purposes to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Olmedo said the restrictions are causing longer wait times at the border, and people are resorting to crossing the bridge on foot to avoid long wait times.

Mayor Dee Margo told city council on Monday that bridge wait times are at about three hours, and he would like to see the bridge fully staffed when middle school and high school students begin crossing the bridge for school.