The Economist.com (Free Exchange) chimes in:
As Felix Salmon notes, Richard Florida's debut column in the Globe and Mail reads like a response to Ed Glaeser's rather pessimistic assessment of Buffalo's economic prospects. In fact, Mr Florida specifically addresses Mr Glaeser in a blog post ... The city of Buffalo is only 60 miles, along a straight line, from Toronto (although an overland route extends the distance to just under 100 miles). Along the east coast, cities like New York and Washington enjoy economic spheres extending outward that far or farther, so it's quite reasonable to expect that Buffalo might, with sufficient infrastructure investment, share in the economic energy surrounding Toronto. ... A more crucial point relating to Toronto-Buffalo symbiosis, however, is one that Mr Florida acknowledges--the role of the international border.
Examinations of the border effect on trade between Canada and America vary in their findings, but some conclude that the equivalent tariff at the border may be as high as 43 percent. Currency risk and regulatory issues explain some of the implied distance, but it appears that shipping uncertainty related to border congestion is a severe constraint. In a paper examining trade between the two countries, we find that:
[O]ut of 130 border crossings, the three Ontario-Southeast Michigan crossings and the Peace Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston crossings in the Buffalo-Niagara area accounted for 55.5 percent of all 2003 truck border volume. It is also important to note that the bulk of the trucks cross the border at locations that turn out to be key points for auto traffic as well. The five crossings described above also accounted for 41.9 percent of all auto crossings on the Canadian border. This concentrated volume of truck traffic at equally congested auto crossings points out some of the problems in trying to increase border security while facilitating trade.
To police border crossings effectively without sustaining an explosion in Homeland Security costs, it's necessary for officials to maintain as few crossing points as possible. The resulting congestion and delay, however, is a significant impediment to cross-border interactions. If Torontonians cannot be sure that business in Buffalo may be completed in a reasonable and predictable amount of time, then the ability of Buffalo's residents to develop complementary economic roles will be limited.
Many observers have wondered why America has not done more to pursue continental, rather than national, security measures, particularly given the value of North American trade. The losses resulting from nationally-centred policy decisions become more poignant in light of the economic struggles of Great Lakes states, which should benefit most from increased trade with Canada. Given the political importance of those states--electoral college big shots like Michigan and Ohio, Illinois and New York--it will be interesting to see if any presidential candidate is able to capitalise on the issue, by promising improvements in the flow of trade.