Memorial Day weekend expected to bring heavy traffic to SoCal roads

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Pent up demand for travel will have 2.9 million Southern Californians heading out this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA. That means heavier traffic on the road as a majority of travelers will drive to their destination.

Doug Shupe with the Auto Club of Southern California says a majority of travelers, or 90%, will drive. Local highways can expect to be busy.

"Now that more and more people are getting vaccinated and COVID numbers are decreasing, people just want to get out there and see new things and experience new things," Shupe said.

AAA says travel is up 64% from last year, but still 16% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

"After a whole year it is just nice to get away," said traveler Alma Garcia.

Garcia and her family from Fontana packed their SUV and hit the road early Thursday morning, likely avoiding heavy traffic expected later in the day. But there was no escaping high gas prices.

"It's expensive and with this big thing, 13 gallons per mile, it goes by quick," said Oscar Garcia.

Gas prices are well over $4 a gallon in most locations and $1.27 higher than the same time last year.

"To put that into perspective, for those that drive the typical mid-sized vehicle with a 14-gallon sized fuel tank, that means that they're paying about $18 more to fill up that tank today than one year ago," said Doug Shupe with Auto Club of Southern California.

Supply issues and increased demand are driving up the price at the pump, which is why Evette Velarde will stay home this holiday weekend.
"We were going to go to Vegas or do something fun with the family, but it's too much. I am spending $80 to fill up," said Velarde.

More than 9% of travelers are expected to fly, and less than 1% will get to their destination by train or bus. Overall, more than 37 million people are expected to travel over the holiday weekend.

Where is everyone going during the get-a-way weekend? According to the Auto Club, many families are heading to national parks. Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah topped the list, followed by Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Air travel is also taking off again after being grounded by the pandemic, with an estimated 2.5 million people expected to travel through airports.

"I feel like it is safe, but a lot of older people might not because I know that is how my grandmother and my aunt are. They're waiting until the pandemic is completely over, but who knows when that will be," said Xavier Harris, who flew in Chicago to visit his mom.

At Los Angeles International Airport, AAA estimates roughly 270,000 travelers are expected to fly. LAX has had its busiest month since early last year.

If you are headed out of town, the Auto Club suggests inspecting you vehicle. The agency expects to respond to more than 115,000 calls for roadside assistance.

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