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AAA forecasts less-crowded roads this summer, despite drop in gasoline prices

Photo of traffic in the Eastbound lanes of

Photo of traffic in the Eastbound lanes of the Long Island Expressway in dix hills on the afternoon of June 25, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Look for less-crowded roads this summer, the AAA said Thursday, as the pandemic-hit economy could slice the number of road trips by 3.3%, to 683 million.

The drop is forecast despite lower gasoline prices, expected to average $2.25 per gallon, down from $2.66 last year. That's the cheapest summer gasoline price since 2016, the AAA said.

Even more drastic declines are forecast for air and sea travel, sparked in part by concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, experts said. Vacations that start at the airport will be down 74%, and the rail, bus and cruise line sector will decline 86%, the AAA said.

“The drop-off in other forms of travel is staggering,” AAA said in a statement.

Overall, trips are forecast to be down nearly 15%, to 700 million, compared with last year, the first summer travel decline since 2009. That was the second and last year of the Great Recession.

AAA estimates that the pandemic has wiped out nearly 150 million trips this summer.

Although there are forecast to be fewer car trips, they will account for 97% of summer travel — usually it’s 87%, the AAA said. 

The rise in infection rates seen in about half the states may be persuading vacationers to hold off on long-range plans.

“The spur-of-the-moment long weekend trip is proving more popular than extended vacations, with the vast majority, 683 million, traveling by car,“ said Robert Sinclair, Jr., a AAA Northeast spokesman. 

He was not immediately available to provide any New York forecasts.

The pandemic also is driving shifts in the most popular destinations.

Orlando, formerly the No. 1 destination, fell to the eighth spot in the rankings, according to search engine data, the AAA said. The new most popular city is Denver, followed by Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix.

To stay safe, travelers should remember to pack their face coverings, gloves and cleaning supplies, as well as the usual food and beverages, the AAA said.

And at rest stops, try to touch as little as possible except through a glove or even a plastic bag — and sanitize afterward.

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