Reporting Paul Murnane
NEW YORK (WCBS 880 / 1010 WINS / AP) - As travelers take to the road, air and rail in the last days before Christmas, they should keep one thing in mind: It could be worse.
Planes took off into windy but accommodating skies Thursday morning at LaGuardia Airport as Steve Kent prepared to fly to Denver for a family ski trip, scoffing at the puny lines.
“I don’t find it that difficult,” he said. “I think Thanksgiving is harder.”
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Though Christmas and New Year’s travel is expected to be up from last year, the spread-out nature of these holidays means things won’t be quite so cramped as Thanksgiving, for instance, when practically everyone who’s going somewhere is on the move the same day.
“We have a lot of folks who already may have taken off of work,” said Troy Green, a spokesman for AAA. “They may have arrived at their destination before today.”
Green said travel is expected to be up about 3 percent this year, with more than 92 million people planning to go more than 50 miles sometime between now and Jan. 2.
Drivers heading down I-95 should know the Delaware Department of Transportation is warning of what it says could be miles and hours of delays around toll plaza construction in the vicinity of Newark.
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Metro-North, the LIRR, and NJ Transit are all offering holiday getaway service on the rails.
The MTA’s Sam Zambuto says Metro-North, however, is cutting or combining trains after 5 p.m. So, too, is NJ Transit.
Regular unleaded gasoline is pushing about $3 a gallon in New Jersey and the Gas Buddy website reports regular at $3.25 to $3.29 around the five boroughs and from $3.39 to $3.49 around Stamford.
It appears Americans are getting used to flying under the specter of terrorism and the new inconveniences the government deems necessary to combat it. Most people surrender to body scans and invasive pat-downs with little fuss. Resignation has replaced fear.
Even when Newark Liberty Airport, one of the country’s biggest, closed a terminal containing a “suspicious package” on Monday, most travelers shrugged off the two-hour disruption.
Holiday air travel is up 2.8 percent this year, says the AAA motorists’ club, which surveys Americans about their travel plans. That’s about the same as the increase in the number of people who are driving, which suggests that U.S. travelers are undeterred by airport security measures introduced after a Nigerian was arrested on charges of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear.
The Transportation Security Administration has installed 483 full-body image scanners at 78 airports, and plans to have 1,000 in place by the end of 2011. In late October, the agency announced a new, more invasive pat-down procedure in which inspectors touch the inside of passengers’ legs, the groin area and along the buttocks.
Outrage over the screenings grew in November. Hundreds of thousands of people viewed a cell-phone video in which a California man resisted a scan and groin check at the San Diego airport with the words, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”
Some travelers tried to organize a boycott of the body scanners ahead of Thanksgiving, but the movement fizzled, said Airports Council International-North America, which represents airport managers. There were no signs of a revolt this time, either, the organization said.