The Canada-United States Transportation Border Working Group

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Technology Subcommittee

The Technology Subcommittee facilitates discussion of the role of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and other technology in improving the efficiency of goods and people movement across the US/Canada border. The subcommittee, through working with border stakeholders, promotes the use of the Border Information Flow Architecture (BIFA), as a tool for ensuring institutional agreement and technical integration for ITS & other technology projects at major land border crossings.

The work plan for the subcommittee centers on encouraging border infrastructure planners to consider technology and operations solutions for common border problems (e.g. congestion). The group will engage border stakeholders to identify opportunities for coordination and information sharing, sponsor technology projects and engage in activities that demonstrate how the BIFA can be used in planning along the border, in programming/budgeting/identifying border projects, and for project implementation.

Desired Outcomes:

  • Identification of technologies and agencies that use technologies at or near the border
  • Fully coordinated border ITS/technology deployments
  • Integration of technology considerations into the planning process
  • Interoperability of technologies
  • Reduced technology investment cost
  • Enhanced information exchange, coordination and communication

Current Activities

ACTIVITY 1 – Using Technology to Measure Border Wait Times

Border wait times and delays are an important concern for travelers and those involved with or affected by international travel and trade. Based primarily on a shared goal of facilitating the movement of goods and people, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Canada Border Services Agency, (CBSA), and Transport Canada (TC) have been coordinating to determine how wait times can be jointly addressed. The agencies have agreed to work together in the areas of:

  • Wait time measurements;
  • Sharing of time and motion studies;
  • Identification of high and low volume/risk border crossings; and
  • Communications and coordination.
The technology subcommittee will work with border stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of Border Wait Time measurement systems.

ACTIVITY 2 – Integration of Technology Considerations into the Planning Process

Border congestion and delay, safety and security are among the top issues that border stakeholders are faced with addressing today and in the future. TBWG agencies and other agencies that operate at or near the border are continuously seeking to improve efficiency, safety and security of the border transportation system. Traditionally facility modernization and infrastructure improvements have been the primary mechanism for improving border operations. ITS/technology and other transportation operations solutions are often a very cost effective way to improve the movement of goods and people across the border.

  • Over the next 12 months, the technology subcommittee will conduct a series of discussions, the first of which is to be held at the November 2008 TBWG meeting, on integrating technology and operations considerations into the border planning process. The planned discussions will result in recommended actions and activities that will raise awareness of the role of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and technology in improving the efficiency of goods and people movement across the US/Canada border, motivate action (e.g. update of key planning documents), and provide a model for integrating technology deployment as part of facility modernization or infrastructure improvement.

ACTIVITY 3- Promote the use and Maintenance of the Border Information Flow Architecture

Border Information Flow Architecture (BIFA):

There are a multitude of agencies from numerous jurisdictions (federal, state, provincial) that operate at or on the approach to Canada-U.S. border crossings. Many of these agencies are currently planning or implementing technology and information systems to help them accomplish their work. Representatives of some of these agencies attending the Transportation Border Working Group (TBWG) meeting in Vermont in June, 2003, identified the need for a “process for institutional cooperation and coordination to ensure that decision-making related to the selection of technologies by individual agencies will result in interoperability”.

The development of a Border Information Flow Architecture (BIFA) could help guide a deliberate effort to ensure the systems deployed at the border are able to interact with each other. The development process could follow a process similar to that used to develop an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Regional Architecture.

What is an Architecture?

An Architecture is the communications and information backbone that supports and unites key technologies enabling them to work together and communicate with each other. It describes the interaction among various physical components of the transportation system, such as travellers, vehicles, sensors, databases, and control centres.

The TBWG is applying the concept of an architecture to the border “region” to develop a framework which identifies agencies operating at or on the approach to the border and maps the information flows between them. The framework describes how components interact and work together, i.e. what each component does and what information is exchanged among components to achieve total system goals.

An architecture is made up of Subsystems and Information Flows:

  • Subsystems perform particular functions such as managing traffic, providing traveler information, or enforcing regulations, and are usually associated with a particular organization such as departments of transportation, information service providers, or public safety agencies. They are sources and/or users of information provided by other subsystems.
  • Information flows define information that is exchanged between subsystems such as traffic information, driver and vehicle information, or surveillance and sensor control data. They depict system integration by illustrating the information links between subsystems. This integration is not only technical but institutional as well. The system interfaces that are defined require cooperation and shared responsibilities on the part of owners and operators of each participating system.

The architecture does not dictate which technologies an agency must use, but rather helps procurers ensure that the technologies they choose are interoperable with other systems, making them easier to upgrade and cheaper to produce. It ensures that agencies deploying new technology and systems retain the option of securely exchanging data and information with other agencies or systems, thereby enabling access to higher-order benefits.

The architecture is not a Strategy or Plan. Rather, its real value is as a tool to support the planning and project development processes. A Border Information Flow Architecture can be a powerful tool for planning the integration of systems at the border. Indeed the very process of creating an architecture can enhance planning by bringing together a diverse array of agencies and stakeholders to discuss future needs and how these might be met.

A Border Information Flow Architecture Working Group (BIFAWG) composed of representatives from agencies involved in processes at or on the approach to the border, was established in February 2004. The working group will coordinate the development and maintenance of the BIFA, and report back to the TBWG on a semi-annual basis. Information on future developments will be forthcoming on this website as the work of the BIFAWG continues to progress.

Uses of the Architecture:
  • To foster border region coordination and cooperation
  • Border project development
  • Border Region Architecture – either as input to a Regional ITS Architecture, or as a standalone regional BIFA

Do you think the Border Information Flow Architecture will be a useful planning tool for your organization?  How do you plan to use it?  What border projects do you think are most applicable?

Email us your comments or BIFA examples for posting on this site.

For further information contact the Co-Leads:

Julie Irvine, Transport Canada (

Tiffany Julien, Federal Highway Administration (

View the draft architecture at the BIFA Web Site.