More than 1 million New Jersey residents are expected to travel during the holiday weekend, and those who drive will be forced to pay higher gas prices.
Tracy Noble, spokeswoman for AAA Mid Atlantic, estimated more than 840,000 New Jersey motorists would travel at least 50 miles from their home this weekend, 2 percent more than last year’s holiday weekend.
For South Jersey shore and resort businesses, Labor Day can be the last chance for summer crowds. Business leaders say the higher gas prices, driven in part by an improving economy but also by the impacts of Hurricane Isaac on production in the Gulf of Mexico, aren’t expected to be a deterrent.
Doreen Talley, marketing and events director for the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, said she has not heard of business owners complaining about loss of customers due to gas prices.
“We are just a gas tank away from many metro areas,” she notes. “New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore are all close by.”
Joe Kelly, president of Atlantic City Chamber, said gas is a factor, but with such a large population near the resort, something that hampers long car trips could benefit the city.
“Anything that adds cost to a vacation needs to be considered,” he said. “The length of a car trip may play to our advantage. Instead of taking an eight- or nine-hour trip, they’ll say ‘maybe I’ll reconsider.’”
Nationally, the average price of unleaded gasoline was $3.83 per gallon Friday, according to a AAA report. This meant a rise of 10 cents per gallon in the past week, the report said. The price also was 21 cents more per gallon than a year ago, the report said.
But in New Jersey, the price increase has been less steep. The price was $3.69 cents per gallon Friday — four cents more per gallon than last week and 15 cents higher than this time last year.
Noble said the price of gas may discourage some from taking last-minute day trips to the region.
That was the case for Egg Harbor Township resident Nancy Santos,l who said she had planned to go to Delaware this weekend but decided it wasn’t worth it due to the price of gas.
“I just think it’s ridiculous. It’s all a game,” she said. “You have car payments, insurance and then gas.”
Raja Irfan, an employee of the Sunoco gas station at the circle in Egg Harbor Township near the Atlantic City International Airport, said Friday was much slower than normal for the day before Labor Day weekend.
Gas was $3.63 a gallon Friday and Irfan said whenever the gas exceeds $3 a gallon he sees a lot more people carpooling.
“There will be four or five people in a car and they’ll each give me $5 (bills) to pay,” the Mays Landing resident said. “Gas is ridiculous right now. People will complain to me and I’ll say, ‘It’s not my fault.’”
At the Sunoco on Rio Grande Avenue in Wildwood, attendant Kevin Conrey said people have turned away due to the price of gas — which was $3.76 per gallon Friday.
“People have come in and asked for the price and said ‘oh wow.’ They go off the shore where the price is less,” the Wildwood resident said. “People will come in and look at the price and then gun it and drive off.”
Noble said experts believe prices will drop after the holiday weekend as demand will decrease after Labor Day and gas stations switch to less expensive winter blended gasoline.
Pennsylvania resident Massie Pacchione has visited his home in Brigantine several times this summer.
One positive aspect is that the price in New Jersey is less than Pennsylvania, so he always fills up his tank before leaving.
“When gas prices are high we’ll combine trips so we don’t do a lot of smaller ones,” he said. “We buy more lottery tickets. Hopefully it will pay for more gas.”
Meanwhile, Little Egg Harbor residents Wayne and Naomi Purul found themselves with a few extra hours Friday and spent it driving around the area.
“What are you going to do? You have to go with the flow,” he said. “You can’t stop living with the price of gas. If we want to go somewhere, we will go.”
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