More Labor Day travelers will hop on trains and buses this holiday weekend to avoid high gas prices and hefty airfares, travel experts say.
"We're anticipating holiday ridership to be about 10 percent higher this year" than last, says Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero.
Amtrak set a record in July with 2.8 million passengers and expects to break the annual record this year, she says.
Even a 5 percent fare hike last month in the heavily traveled Northeast hasn't stopped ridership growth, she says. She believes people are fed up with traffic jams and airport security lines.
"We're attributing about half of the increase to the price of gas alone and the other half to travelers seeking an alternative to driving or flying," she says. "You can bring your shampoo on Amtrak."
The United Motorcoach Association, which represents 900 charter and tour bus operators, also expects more passengers this weekend. "We have seen a pickup since fuel prices went up," President Victor Parra says.
Overall, however, auto club AAA projects that the number of people traveling more than 50 miles from home by all modes of transportation will decrease slightly compared with last year.
Gas prices are down from their peak in July, but they're still about 90 cents more than they were last year, says AAA spokesman Troy Green. The average cost of a gallon of regular gas Thursday was $3.66.
That's "still very expensive. When you add in the foreclosure crisis, the tight credit crunch, the escalating prices of food and other goods, it's not as if people are dealing with high gasoline prices in a vacuum," Green says.
Higher air fares and a slowing economy are causing airline passengers to consider other options as well.
The Air Transport Association (ATA) has predicted the number of flights people cumulatively take over the eight-day period that ends Wednesday will fall by 1 million from the same period last year to 16 million a 6 percent drop.
Like gasoline, jet fuel prices have dipped slightly in recent weeks but remain far higher than last year.