When traffic takes a holiday
July 2, 2012
If you’re sticking around town this Fourth of July week, here’s a little something extra to celebrate:
Chances are your commute this week is lighter than usual, thanks to the 54% of holiday travelers who, according to the Automobile Club, hit the road early to get a head start on Wednesday’s Independence Day revelry.
Call it the mixed blessing of the mid-week holiday.
With Wednesday’s national celebration of the Fourth coming smack in the middle of the work week, many saw an opportunity to frontload their holiday by taking Monday and Tuesday off. (Or even starting out on the previous Friday, June 29.) Others are delaying gratification and opting to declare their independence from work on Thursday and Friday, thus backloading the holiday and spinning it into a 5-day weekend.
Even though the Auto Club estimates that 4.88 million Californians will be traveling for the holiday this year—a 5.2% increase from last year and more than any year since 2003—the staggered departure days appear to be diluting the traffic impact.
“We expect this is going to be a whole week of getaway days,” says Jeff Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Whether they’re traveling or not, there’s plenty of evidence that folks are staying away from work in droves this week.
“You don’t need data,” Spring says. “You can just send some emails and wait for the auto-responses saying people are out of their offices.”
Danny Chung, media relations manager at Southern California Edison in Rosemead, says that although his workplace is going at full tilt, “everybody else seems to be taking it easy.”
“I drive in from La Verne and it has been a very light drive since Friday evening,” he says.
Government offices are closed Wednesday, and the holiday also will shut down local universities for a day in the middle of the week, making the summer session even quieter than usual. By Wednesday, UCLA will be “kind of a ghost town…except for the most diligent students wandering around,” says university spokesman Chris Stanton.
Even the California Highway Patrol, which declares the days on and around major holidays to be “maximum enforcement periods,” has determined that kind of stepped-up action will be needed only on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. By contrast, last July 4, which fell on a Monday, required a four-day maximum enforcement period starting the Friday before the holiday.
Still, don’t expect getting around town to be a picnic on Wednesday. Metro buses and trains will be running on a reduced holiday schedule, and traffic congestion is likely around popular recreation hotspots like the beaches and at major fireworks shows.
CHP Public Information Officer Saul Gomez, who reports on afternoon drive-time patterns for a number of Los Angeles TV and radio stations, predicted that Wednesday would be a “heavy traffic day.” Motorists should plan their route in advance, wear their seatbelts and designate a driver if they plan to raise a glass or two to Old Glory.
“It’s a very busy period,” Gomez says. “The weather is great and people tend to imbibe a little more than they would normally.”