Insta-CoGo: A Less-Traveled Memorial Day?
Preliminary reports on automobile traffic over Memorial Day weekend are confirming what some in the travel industry and elsewhere had long suspected: Gas prices are finally beginning to take a toll on holiday car travel.
The decrease was far from dramatic. Traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, for instance, declined by just 3 percent from the same period last year, according to a report released yesterday by AAA Mid-Atlantic. Still, "the Maryland Transportation Authority was initially projecting more than 355,000 vehicles would cross the Bay Bridge - a 3 percent increase over 2007," said the report.
It would be presumptuous to come to any grand conclusions based on one bridge's traffic over one weekend, but it's safe to say that the rise in fuel prices is starting to alter the way we spend our long weekends, just as it will likely change how we spend our summer vacations.
After all, on Sunday, gas prices reached an average of $4 a gallon in the District, a distinction it now shares with 10 states, according to AAA. That's an increase of 15 cents in one week. And while an earlier AAA report suggested that Memorial Day vacationers might save money by flying, the only way flying would make economic sense was if you were traveling alone and to a destination at least 1,500 miles away.
Translation: It was still cheaper for most people to drive during Memorial Day weekend, which is to say it was not cheap at all.
There is a glimmer of a silver lining here. After all, fewer cars on the road means fewer greenhouse emissions, and if there's going to be a beneficiary here, it might as well be the planet Earth, which heaven knows has drawn the short straw often enough.
But Memorial Day weekend, in addition to a national time of reflection, is also a time of celebration, of marking the end of school and the beginning of summer, a time for overworked America to enjoy a few precious days away from the daily grind.
Or at least it was.
(Coming and Going, or CoGo, is the Travel section's weekly consumer column. For a look at last week's column, click here.)
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