- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Home for the holidays will mean staying home for more residents of the Washington area. AAA Mid-Atlantic's annual holiday travel projection, released yesterday, calls for a 2 percent drop in travel. An estimated 953,000 people in the District and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs will venture at least 50 miles from home this season, more than 75 percent by car.
The auto club cited several factors it expects will keep people home.
"Our economy is very soft right now, we've got so many people that are either out of work or worried about possibly being laid off," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson.
The timing of Christmas and New Year's Day, which fall on Wednesdays, was also cited.
"Anytime you have them on a Thursday or a Friday, or a Monday, it seems to encourage travel, because you've got a three- or four-day built-in space to travel," Mr. Anderson said.
AAA statistics show a history of reduced travel when Christmas falls midweek. Mr. Anderson also noted the shorter space this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Drivers can expect the first holiday crunch to come tomorrow afternoon, when commuters mix with vacationers. Early afternoon on Christmas Eve also will be busy.
"The biggest rush back into town is probably going to be on New Year's, because everybody wants to be back at their desk" on Jan. 2, Mr. Anderson said.
Drivers will find a lump of coal at D.C.-area gas stations, where the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular $1.42 is up 31 cents from a year ago.
The 210,000 people expected to fly out of the D.C. area is a nearly 5 percent increase over last year, when memories of the terrorist attacks were fresh in everyone's mind. Mr. Anderson said people are more confident in airport security.
"Now, I think we've got systems in place whereby we're getting security we need, but we're also taking care of travelers and moving them through the system pretty evenly," he said.

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