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Traffic surge expected for holiday

Transportation: As gas prices stay relatively low, AAA expects an increase in commuters on local fre

Posted: September 3, 2010 2:30 a.m.
Updated: September 3, 2010 6:00 a.m.

City employee Dan March places a flag on a lightpost on Soledad Canyon Road near Ironstone Drive in Canyon Country on Thursday in preparation for Labor Day weekend. As families gear up for out-of-town travel, The Signal looks at how gas prices and the economy could affect the weekend-traffic picture.

Car travel is on the rise as gas prices fall this Labor Day weekend, according to the American Automobile Association.

About 2.5 million Southern California travelers are expected to be taking off this weekend — an 11-percent increase over the 2.26 million Southern California residents who traveled last Labor Day, AAA said in a written statement.

The group also said the national average price for gasoline has been steadily declining this month; the average price for gas in California is $3.09 a gallon. Car travel this weekend will see an 11.6-percent increase from last year, with 91 percent of Southern California travelers traveling by car, AAA said.

“Car travel is the cheapest way to go,” said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for AAA. “(Car travel) is more efficient and the popularity of air travel has plummeted.”  

Montgomery said with baggage fees, stringent security requirements and most airlines not serving food on airplanes, many people see air travel as more expensive and more time consuming than car travel. Only 5 percent of Americans will be traveling by plane this weekend, AAA said.

Montgomery also said that gas prices are falling because of a drop in crude oil prices that equates to lower prices at the pump.

Las Vegas is the most popular Labor Day weekend destination for people in Los Angeles County, followed by San Diego.

“San Diego is much more of a family destination with the zoo, the ocean and the beach; and Las Vegas is much more of a mecca for gambling, shows and nightlife,” Montgomery said.

Javier Robles, a 37-year old Valencia resident, will be traveling by car to the Fresno area this weekend to visit family.
He said he always drives on vacations, but the economy has put a damper on his travels this year.

“The economy has definitely reduced the amount of road trips we’ve taken, but not for Labor Day,” Robles said.

However, not everyone is opening their wallets for Labor Day travel.

Mike Montanio, a 30 year-old Fullerton resident, said he’ll be staying home this holiday weekend.

“I did all my traveling for the summer already,” Montanio said. “It has a little bit to do with money.”

Montgomery warned that traffic could pose problems for those who are traveling this weekend.

“The main suggestion that we always like to tell people is to travel during off peak times, but you can’t always tell when those are,” Montgomery said.

The threat of heavily congested freeways doesn’t scare Robles. He said he doesn’t have any plans to leave early to avoid the traffic.

“We’ll just go with the flow,” Robles said.


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