Friday, December 2, 2011

Recap of Thanksgiving holiday travel

By guest blogger Alice Fiman

It wasn’t an invasion, but shopping Black Friday deals, combined with a favorable exchange rate and the Canadian government relaxing the duty for up to $400 worth of goods (for a two-day trip) brought many more Canadians down I-5 over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Well, that may have been it anyway. we, unlike travel companies, measures how many vehicles cross its traffic sensors. We just don’t know the reason – but when looking at the numbers and other factors, we have our theories. Such as how there was a significant increase in traffic on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass for 2011. This was most likely due to favorable weather as anyone who was around last year knows Thanksgiving 2010 was white and cold. Same deal with US 2 Stevens Pass. Another hypothesis includes ski area openings. Traffic fluctuates depending on if they are open or not.

In any case, traffic increased on I-5 from Bellingham to the U.S. Canadian border for 2011. It was the Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) southbound traffic that showed a notable bump, with what we believe were Canadians traveling to Washington stores for 2011 Black Friday shopping specials. Between Wednesday and Sunday, 157,500 vehicles travelled northbound and southbound on I-5, an increase of 17,700 vehicles (11 percent) compared to the same period in 2010.

Thanksgiving travel graph

I-90 Snoqualmie Pass

For Wednesday through Sunday 152,300 vehicles traveled on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass. This was an increase of 25,800 vehicles (20 percent) compared with the same period in 2010.

I-5, Olympia to Tacoma

That same 2010 winter storm most likely kept folks off I-5 in Pierce and Thurston counties.  More than half of a million (560,500) vehicles traveled I-5 between Olympia and Tacoma over Thanksgiving weekend 2011, an increase of 38,100 vehicles (7 percent).

US 2, Stevens Pass

And yes, there was snow and ice on US 2 for Thanksgiving 2010. Almost 30,000 traveled over Stevens Pass between Wednesday and Sunday of the Thanksgiving 2011 holiday while the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday traffic was only 17,100 vehicles. This year, the day after Thanksgiving was especially busy on Stevens Pass. Since the coldest day in the Skykomish area was Friday, it was most likely a travel day for skiers.