AAA is employing interesting methods to give travelers a heads-up on the traffic and traveling conditions this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. On its website, AAA explains its “Holiday Forecast Methodology” as being made up of two key components: Travel Forecast and U.S. Travel Sentiment Index. The forecast is based on current economic conditions, whereas the sentiment index is measured by analyzing social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The AAA methodology suggests that travel will be popular and traffic congestion inevitably heavy as the U.S. “bounces back” from a recession. The Memorial Day “travel period” will begin this Thursday, May 22 and last through Monday, May 26.
Much of the economic analysis was conducted in tandem with the IHS Global Insight, which consulted its proprietary databases for information on categories such as employment rates, the housing market, gasoline prices, airline travel, and stock indices. These variables, when combined with AAA’s social media analyses, paint a very crowded picture for Memorial Day travelers. The report projects that 31.8 million people will drive more than 50 miles to their holiday destination. Leisure holiday airplane travel will see 2.6 million passengers coming through airports around the country, an increase from last year’s 2.4 million travelers.
While average airfare and car rentals will experience price increases (about 6 percent and 1 percent, respectively), AAA believes that gas prices this Memorial Day might be slightly lower than last year’s national averages. However, according to Auto Club spokesperson Marie Montgomery, Los Angeles will see about a 10 cent increase in gas prices from last year, making the average cost per gallon $4.18. For those choosing to drive to their holiday destination, the data technology company INRIX has provided its own analysis of Los Angeles-area congestion, and even offers up the best time windows for an L.A. departure to places such as Las Vegas, San Diego, and Palm Springs. All in all, the best time to leave on Friday is before 1pm, otherwise it is best to wait until the evening, according to the INRIX analysis. Even then, it is safe to expect between an hour and three hours of delay due to traffic congestion.
Travelers can also expect to see an increased number of law enforcement out and about. America’s annual Seat Belt Campaign began yesterday and lasts through the end of the month. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this means that law enforcement agencies are teaming up in what is being referred to as an “enforcement blitz” that makes sure drivers “Click It or Ticket.” People on Facebook and Twitter are expected to seize the opportunity to alert fellow travelers of local speed traps and checkpoints over the holiday weekend.
Altogether, AAA and IHS are predicting heavy traffic as a result of the 25 percent increase nationwide in Memorial Day traveling this year. Travelers are encouraged to take advantage of online traffic and safety reports—of which Facebook and Twitter are often people’s go-to—to stay up to date on driving conditions. Though the prospect of heavier-than-normal holiday traffic and congestion is not the ideal way to start out a vacation, the suggestion that traffic is worse because of bettering nation-wide economic conditions is encouraging.
By Courtney Anderson