NEW YORK – Some trains were sold out and light snow slowed traffic in Denver, but short airport lines surprised people who got a head start on what was predicted to be a day of record travel on the eve of Thanksgiving.
Surveys indicated a record 38.7 million U.S. residents were likely to travel 50 miles or more for the holiday between Wednesday and Sunday, up about 1.5 percent over last year, according to the AAA auto club.
About 31.2 million of them were expected to drive despite gas prices that were nearly 85 cents more per gallon than they were a year earlier. The national average for regular gasoline on Nov. 16 was $3.09 a gallon, up from $2.23 on Nov. 17, 2006.
Gas prices entered into Christopher Bruce’s decision to take a circuitous, 11-hour train ride instead of driving from western Pennsylvania to Baltimore.
“Yeah, it takes the whole day, but it’s cheaper in the long run, by the time I fill up the tank, get a meal and everything,” Bruce, a student at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., said at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.
Light check-in volume surprised travelers departing from the United Airlines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
“We were expecting a much longer delay. LAX is infamous for that,” said Charles Gwyer, 70, of Philadelphia. He and his wife were heading to Hawaii for a family gathering after a stopover in Los Angeles.
Airports took steps to move people quickly. Arizona’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had about 400 volunteers on hand to answer passenger questions and help direct traffic, spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said.
In New York, the subways that feed into Penn Station were packed with commuters – and luggage – heading out for the holiday. Arguments broke out between some passengers pushing for more space.