Fewer Washingtonians plan to drive over Fourth of July weekend; number of fliers jumps

With gas prices 80 cents a gallon higher than they were a year ago, fewer Washington area residents plan to drive when traveling over the coming holiday weekend.

But AAA’s annual survey of Fourth of July weekend travel found a 22 percent jump in the number of area residents who said they plan to fly somewhere.

“The high cost of gasoline is throwing a monkey wrench in the travel plans of some Washington households struggling to make ends meet,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson. “On the other hand, the three area airports will be extremely busy during the holiday, as more than 72,000 Washingtonians fly to their destinations.”

Fliers make up a fraction of the region’s holiday travelers. More than 900,000 people plan to drive 50 miles or more from home, a decline of 1.8 percent from last year.

“The cost of gasoline remained above $3.75 for nearly 60 days in a row, a period in which local residents normally make their summer travel plans,” Anderson said. “Area households were spending over $400 a month on fuel during that protracted period, and it caused a number of persons to cancel or postpone their vacation plans.”

Anderson said those who can least afford high gas prices, which have been slowly dropping, were forced to curtail their travel plans. The survey found that the percentage of travelers with a household income of $50,000 or less that would take to the roads this weekend is expected to decrease from 41 to 33 percent when compared with last year, while travelers with a household income of more than $100,000 are expected to increase to 35 from 26 percent.

“Increased fuel costs are also responsible for a shift in the demographics of the typical Independence Day traveler as higher prices impact lower-income households more significantly,” Anderson said.

The survey found that 56 percent of those who plan to travel said rising gasoline prices would not effect their plans. Of the 44 percent who said gas prices would affect their travel plans, seven out of 10 said they would cut corners in other travel plan spending, and three out of 10 said they would take a shorter trip or travel by a different mode of transportation.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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