I just returned yesterday from a five-day tour of Montreal and Quebec City, Canada, and was thrilled to discover there is a new bus lane for US customs! It’s been a year since I used the Blackpool border crossing, where Canadian Route 15 connects to I-87 in New York (known to Canadian locals as the Lacolle border crossing and to New York locals as the Champlain border crossing), so I’m not sure how long the new bus lane has been there, but it wasn’t there last August when I crossed there. The US side has been undergoing construction for the last couple of years, and the pattern for buses was often confusing, not well marked, and different every time you came through, it seemed. But now you simply keep to the far right of the car lanes, and you’ll see the bus lane clearly defined. You no longer follow the commercial/truck lanes as previously. It works almost exactly like the bus lane on the Canadian side going north.
Even though there was just one bus ahead of me, which was cleared ten minutes after we were in line, we waited almost 25 minutes until a customs officer came aboard. With only 29 passengers and all US citizens, passports in hand, it was a fairly quick ten minute inspection from that point (including almost five minutes for them to check my passport and the bus registration).
I’ve only done two border crossings since the new passport requirements took effect June 1, 2009 — one at Niagara Falls in June and this one yesterday at Blackpool — but so far it seems that the new passport requirement is making for easier, more efficient crossings, at least once the customs officers make it to your bus. Going north this past Monday, two Canadian officers came aboard, one starting from the back of the coach and one from the front. They also had me open the luggage bays and storage doors on the coach, a rarity on the Canadian side. But like I tell my passengers, no two border crossings are the same! You never know exactly what to expect. Just be prepared.