Chicago travelers face crowded roads

Relatively smooth sailing at airports
November 26, 2008 6:03:06 PM PST
The holiday rush got under way as millions were expected to travel by road, rail, or airways.You would never know the economy is tanking, judging from the number of people that took to the roads for the Thanksgiving holiday Wednesday.

On the Kennedy expressway, traffic was bumper-to-bumper Wednesday evening.

No doubt, many of the holiday travelers were enticed to drive to their destinations because of the rapidly falling gas prices. Just a few months ago, gas was well over $4 a gallon. Well, Wednesday, AAA was reporting gas prices averaging $2.11 per gallon for unleaded in Illinois. It's even cheaper in Indiana.

Even so, because of the overall ailing economy, AAA was expecting the lowest number of motorists since 2002 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Still, roads were very crowded Wednesday; more than 80 percent of the people from Illinois traveling 50 miles or more this holiday are hitting the roads sometime this weekend.

Train travel has been very popular also. Amtrak had a record month in October and has seen six years of increasing ridership. Chicago's Union Station was extremely busy all day Wednesday.

However, Amtrak says it's too early to tell if the train company will see another record for this Thanksgiving season. An spokesperson told ABC7 Chicago that Amtrak has a lot of sold-out trains, but the lower gas prices could be affecting Amtrak's business somewhat as some people choose to drive.

As an example of how crowded some roads have been, the ride on the inbound Kennedy from Cumberland to Ohio at 5 p.m. Wednesday was 110 minutes, nearly two hours.

Apparently, a lot of people trying to head out of town.

Smooth sailing at Chicago O'Hare

The security line at O'Hare airport was moving along very smoothly Wednesday afternoon. An unofficial estimate from a TSA agent was that it was taking about 15 to 20 minutes from start to finish to get through the security at approximately 4 p.m. That's a pace that's better than some average weekdays.

About 205,000 people were expected to pass through O'Hare airport Wednesday, but the actual number seemed to be lower, compared to this time last year. It looks like this is not one of the busiest travel days of the year.

However, one traveler, Eddie Perez, said he was flying to see his family in Austin, Texas, for Thanksgiving. He said he knows all too well what O'Hare can be like during the holidays.

" It's crazy. It is crazy. It's not as bad this year," he told ABC7 Chicago.

For most of the day, travelers were able to breeze through check-in and security. Their good fortune could be the result of the bad economy, which is causing fewer people to travel. Nationwide, the number of people flying is down 7 percent compared to last year.

Alyson Koblas came close to foregoing her trip.

"I considered that, but ultimately, I wanted to go home and see my family because I hadn't seen them in a while," she said. "I think it's like an 18-hour drive. So, flying really is the only option."

Another traveler Jordan Cuffie said he apprecited the quick lines but still had a price to pay.

"The cost of checking a bag, that $15 charge. I'm not used to that. That's completely new," Cuffie said.

Besides smaller crowds, there were other measures in place to keep things moving along at the airport. The Transportation Security Administration added family lanes at security check points. They're also available for passengers with special needs and first-time fliers.

With no flight delays or other hassles, passengers can think about what they're thankful for.

"Good weather. Open-toed shoe weather," said Lovely Brack, who was heading to Atlanta, Georgia.

We'll see how the line of passengers will be on Sunday at O'Hare. That is supposed to be the airport's busiest travel day.


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