Facing furloughs, fewer people in D.C. region plan to travel over Memorial Day weekend

With thousands of the Washington region’s federal workers facing the prospect of furloughs, fewer people say they plan to travel this Memorial Day weekend than last year.

AAA’s annual survey found that 2 percent fewer people — a total of 874,000 — said they expected to travel more than 50 miles from home.

“The wonder is so many area residents are still traveling despite the fact furlough notices are going out June 5 and the reality of workers coping with the payroll tax hike,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA. “We will see double-digit [percent] decreases in the number of persons flying and in personal leisure traveling by train, bus and other transportation modes. Yet automobile travel will only experience the slightest shrinkage.”

Townsend said that came as something of a surprise because gas prices have soared in the weeks leading up to the holiday weekend. This is the first time in four years that prices have increased just before Memorial Day.

In the previous three years, they dropped by an average of 14 cents a gallon in the six weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend.

“Nearly 62 percent of local households say the rising cost of gas will have little or no impact on their holiday travel plans,” Townsend said. “Consumers probably won’t realize any comfort at the pumps until mid-June at the earliest or see little real relief until after the Fourth of July at the latest.”

The AAA survey found that nearly 795,000 people in the Washington region say they plan to travel by car to a destination 50 or more miles from home this weekend, a fractional decrease when compared with last year’s travel.

The number who say they plan to fly somewhere — 58,500 — is a 10.1 percent decrease from those who took flights a year ago.

Those who say they plan to escape the Washington area for the weekend will travel an average of 737 miles. About a third of them said they plan to vacation on the Chesapeake Bay or at Maryland or Delaware beaches.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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