The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has begun posting an index of monthly freight and passenger activity levels on its website to provide a snapshot of transportation activity at the agency’s airports, interstate crossings, rail and port facilities.
Called PA Pulse, the index provides a one-stop look at monthly transportation activity, which may eventually help forecast regional economic trends.
It currently comprises 20 years of historical data at key regional gateways and crossings.
PA Pulse combines monthly totals of air passengers, vehicle movements, rail and bus mass-transit users and air, truck, and sea cargo, providing a cross-section of transportation activity at the region’s key gateways and interstate crossings that can be compared on a month-by-month basis.
The statistics will be seasonally adjusted and will take into account holidays and severe weather interruptions to provide the most meaningful monthly portrayal of activity possible.
The bi-state port agency said PA Pulse should be considered a transportation activity index and is not designed to be an economic indicator, but it said PA Pulse does vary with the economy. Agency officials will monitor the index to test its ability to predict changes in the regional economy.
The data already show the index has made a partial recovery from the depths of the recession, but it does not indicate the steady growth expected in a robust economic expansion. Regional transportation activity in February 2012 as measured by PA Pulse, for example, was three-tenths of 1 percent below what it was in February 2011 after seasonal adjustments.
The index increased by 31.4 percent between 1992 and its pre-recession peak in late 2000. After recovering from recession and 9/11, the index grew another 5.1 percent to its next peak in 2010. The index fell 13.8 percent when the recent financial crisis and recession hit, and has not yet finished climbing back to previous levels. It has grown 6.8 percent since its recent low point in March 2009.
The PA Freight Pulse component of the index comprises air cargo tonnage at the Port Authority’s four commercial airports, container cargo imports and exports at port facilities in New Jersey and New York and truck activity at the agency’s four bridges and two tunnels.
The PA Passenger Pulse component of the index includes fliers at the agency’s four commercial airports, automobile and bus occupants at the six crossings, ferry passengers across the Hudson River, and PATH and other trans-Hudson rail passengers.