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New York launches Excelsior Pass Plus to expand travel, commerce industries

New York state has launched Excelsior Pass Plus to expand travel and commerce opportunities by enabling compatibility between the state’s Excelsior Pass platform, which has generated 3 million passes and provides digital proof of vaccination or negative test result, and the globally recognized SMART Health Cards Framework developed by an international consortium called VCI.

The state has partnered with VeriFLY by Daon, through which Excelsior Pass Plus users can securely upload their verified COVID-19 vaccination credentials to VeriFLY and travel through American Airlines to Greece, France, Spain, Italy and the Bahamas, and on indirect flights to El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras and Puerto Rico. The list will continue to grow as partnerships facilitating access to more countries are in development.

“The adoption of SMART Health Cards and open standards in Excelsior Pass Plus is a tremendous step forward in the availability of trustworthy health information for all people,” said JP Pollak, co-founder of the Commons Project, senior researcher at Cornell Tech and a co-leader of VCI. “And as a New Yorker, I’m grateful to be able to demonstrate my health status reliably wherever I go, without sacrificing my privacy. This is one more critical step towards the safe reopening and recovery of our fair state.”

Excelsior Pass Plus was developed in partnership with VCI, a voluntary coalition of 570 public and private organizations including the Mayo Clinic, MITRE, Boston Children’s Hospital, Microsoft and the Commons Project Foundation that lead the development and implementation of the open-source SMART Health Cards Framework and specifications, which are already in use in California, Louisiana and Hawaii.

“As part of Marriott’s Connect with Confidence initiative, which provides innovative meeting solutions and optional health protocols to meeting professionals, we are excited to make New York State’s secure Excelsior Pass solutions available to our meeting planner customers,” said Tammy Routh, senior vice president, Global Sales Organization, Marriott International.

Like Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus can be accessed via the Excelsior Pass Web Portal or through the free NYS Wallet App, but requires a valid phone number or email for 2-factor authentication.

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Holiday travel expected to spike despite high prices at the pumps

While gas prices in the Rochester area topped out at $3 per gallon this week — the highest Memorial Day week average locally since 2018 — experts are predicting a spike in travel for the holiday.


GasBuddy this week said the average price of a gallon of gas in Rochester rose 2.5 cents to $3, while AAA Western and Central New York reported an average price of $3.02. A year ago, the average price at the pump was $2.17 locally.

Statewide, AAA reported the average price as $3.07, up from $2.18 a year ago. Nationally this week, the average price for unleaded gas was $3.04, according to AAA and $3.02, according to GasBuddy.

“In the lead up to Memorial Day, we haven’t seen gas prices come down much, though with oil’s recent move lower we should start to see more drops at the pump materialize in the days ahead,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “With the Colonial Pipeline situation continuing to improve in Southeastern states, fueling up for the holiday weekend shouldn’t be too challenging, save for a few pockets in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where outages remain a bit higher than neighboring states.”

De Haan said we can expect prices to continue to inch lower and advised motorists to wait to fuel up for weekend travel.

“Motorists need not rush to fill their tanks as the drop in oil prices should manifest into lower gas prices as we begin the summer driving season,” he said.

GasBuddy is not expecting summer gas prices to set any records; rather the company is predicting a settling to levels similar to 2018.

AAA is expecting a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this weekend. From May 27 through May 31, more than 37 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home, a 60 percent increase from last year when just 23 million people traveled. Last year’s travel, during the height of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, was the lowest on record since AAA began keeping records in 2000.

“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior president of AAA Travel. “This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer, though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions.”

In a press conference Thursday, AAA said that daily car rental rates have doubled compared with last Memorial Day, topping out at $134. Some consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets due to rental companies selling off their fleets last year, as well as the chip shortage impacting auto manufacturers limiting inventory among rental companies.

AAA also noted that average airfares have increased 14 percent over last Memorial Day and mid-range hotel rates have increased between 29 and 34 percent, with nightly rates between $140 and $181 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this week said it is prepared for an expected increase in the number of travelers who will be flying out of Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

“We are prepared to handle the expected increase in travel volume this summer and at the same time, TSA is committed to supporting a healthy and secure environment for airline passengers, security personnel and airport employees,” said TSA’s Federal Security Director for Upstate New York Bart Johnson. “For those who will be traveling this summer, travelers need to know that the checkpoint experience will look different to those who have not flown since the start of the pandemic, and individuals flying out of Rochester should be prepared for those changes.”

Everyone in the airport is required to wear a mask when they are in airports, bus and rail stations, as well as while on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes, officials noted. If a traveler does not have a mask, a TSA officer will offer one to that individual at the checkpoint.

“We have what I call a ‘new normal’ at airport security checkpoints since the start of the pandemic,” Johnson said.

A TSA officer cleans a bin at Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport. (provided)
A TSA officer cleans a bin at Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport. (provided)

Travelers and security officers will be wearing masks and there will be reminders to socially distance posted at the checkpoint. Security officers will change their gloves between each pat down and travelers can request that an officer put on a new pair of gloves at any time. Security employees will be conducting routine cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces and security screening equipment at the checkpoints.

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AAA to close Pittsford location

AAA Western and Central New York plans to close its Pittsford Travel & Insurance Center next month. The organization cited COVID-19 as the reason for the closure.

The Monroe Avenue facility will close on April 2 and is offering a 30 percent discount on most of the retail items from the store. AAA said no jobs will be lost from the closure.

With in-person business not always feasible or convenient, many AAA members are choosing new ways to interact with the company, officials said this week, adding that the Pittsford lease was ending, making it the right time to consider new options and virtual opportunities.

In July, AAA unveiled a new website to help members from a remote environment. All AAA benefits and services are available online, via video conference, email or phone, and members can request services from their homes.

Current Penfield Manager Christine Randise will manage AAA’s new virtual travel agency with 10 dedicated travel consultants offering flexible travel planning options. When the Pittsford office closes, Manager Sonia Cittadino will transfer to the Penfield location.

AAA also noted two new locations in the Rochester area including one on West Ridge Road in Greece and one on Penfield Road in Penfield.

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Greenlight Networks brings high-speed internet to Rochester airport

Air travelers to and from Rochester will get a boost to their internet speed through a new advertising partnership between Greenlight Networks LLC and the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

“This partnership is about an investment in our community,” said Greenlight CEO Mark Murphy. “The reliability and speed of Greenlight’s world-class internet connection in the airport will showcase our service and will provide most users speeds better than what they may be receiving in their own homes. We are excited for everyone who travels through the airport to experience what Greenlight customers already know and love, the power of true high-speed internet.”

Greenlight offers the fastest fiber optics network statewide. The free, high-speed internet for travelers and airport staffers and vendors will offer upload and download speeds of up to 500 Mbps, 100 times faster than the previous 5 Mbps available at the airport.

The partnership also includes an all-fiber backbone to power the airport’s day-to-day operations. The new services went into effect on Feb. 4.

“The Greater Rochester International Airport is one of the main gateways for visitors into our community. The new partnership between Greenlight Networks and the airport will certainly deliver a positive impression of both the airport and the community for visitors to our city,” said Don Jeffries, president and CEO of Visit Rochester. “The high-speed capabilities of the Greenlight Network will appeal to visitors, providing them with the technology they need to start their visit to Rochester off on the right foot.”

The jump in speed and technology will allow both business and leisure travelers to work, stream and stay connected when in the airport. Greenlight’s advanced upload and download speeds mean travelers can do even more while waiting for their flight — like video conferencing and streaming without buffering or lag time. To ensure a fast, reliable connection for all travelers, Greenlight also has increased the number of wireless access points to guarantee a strong Wi-Fi signal throughout the airport.

To access the new high-speed Wi-Fi, travelers can open a browser page on their device and they will be automatically redirected to the splash page. Once travelers accept the terms they will be connected to one of the fastest airport internet connections in the U.S.

As part of the agreement, Greenlight signage has been placed throughout the airport including entry and exit walkways to both concourses, feature walls behind each baggage claim area, the departure stairwell leading to baggage claim, table tents in the food court and rotating graphics on the airport’s 20 Flight Information Display screens (FIDS). Greenlight also will be participating in future airport events.

“After announcing a $46 million project in October, which aims to add 93 new jobs and a new headquarters in Henrietta, Greenlight Networks continues to thrive in our community,” said County Executive Adam Bello. “This new partnership not only boosts the presence of Greenlight in our region, but also provides the thousands of people who walk the terminals of our airport with access to one of the fastest airport internet connections in the U.S. I am excited to see the strides Greenlight will make in the future and thank them for their investments in Monroe County.”

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DHS lifts ban on New York’s Trusted Traveler Program; Schumer seeking investigation

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday said it will lift its ban on the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) for New York residents, following the amendment of the Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. In response to the sudden backpedaling, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is asking the U.S. Inspector General for an investigation.

In February, DHS banned New Yorkers from the expedited border crossing service, which includes Global Entry, NEXUS and others, due to “state legislation that restricts CBP’s access to certain criminal history information maintained by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.”

Mark Morgan
Mark Morgan

“Nothing is more important than the safety of the United States and our citizens, and the New York Green Light law makes us less safe and shields criminals,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan at the time. “We recognize that many New York residents and businesses will be negatively affected by this change, but we cannot compromise the safety and security of our homeland. When states take negative measures that hinder our ability to protect our great country, we must respond.”

In April, the Green Light Law was amended to allow some information sharing.

DHS officials on Thursday said that while New York had amended the law, allowing for information sharing of state Department of Motor Vehicle records “as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a trusted traveler program, or to facilitate vehicle imports and/or exports,” the state continues to withhold information from CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for other enforcement efforts.

Chad Wolf
Chad Wolf

“We appreciate the information sharing to CBP for the trusted travel program, which enables DHS to move forward and begin once again processing New York residents under the Trusted Travel Program. Nonetheless, local New York law continues to maintain provisions that undermine the security of the American people and purport to criminalize information sharing between law enforcement entities,” said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf in a statement.

DHS in Thursday’s statement also said that blocking federal law enforcement officers from accessing DMV records creates “a significant threat to both public safety and officer safety.” Officials evoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — after which the DHS was formed — stating that the data provided by state officials is vital to identify foreign terrorist connections and build criminal cases and identify criminal suspects including gang members, sex offenders, drug smugglers and others.

“The Green Light Law ultimately undermines the efforts of law enforcement officers, criminalizing their mission to secure the nation and the American people from threats and furthering the risk to their own lives,” Wolf said. “When jurisdictions like New York fail to cooperate with federal authorities, they operate more like refugees from criminal behavior, not sanctuary havens.”

Thursday’s decision may have been predicated on the Trump Administration’s belief that New York was alone in its policy limiting data sharing found in motor vehicle records. In fact, several states have similar policies.

In a court filing Thursday, attorneys for the federal government acknowledged that other states had similar laws, but those states were not targeted by the ban. Attorneys apologized for the error in Thursday’s court filing and asked permission to withdraw motions seeking dismissal of the lawsuit that New York Attorney General Letitia James filed against DHS and CBP in February.

“Defendants deeply regret the foregoing inaccurate or misleading statements and apologize to the Court and plaintiffs for the need to make these corrections at this late stage in the litigation,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss wrote in the filing. Wolf did not address the court filing in his statement.

In a statement Thursday, James applauded DHS’ decision to lift the ban.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James
New York State Attorney General Letitia James

“The Trump Administration backing down and restoring Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler Programs to New Yorkers is a victory for travelers, workers, commerce and our state’s economy,” James said in the statement. “This policy was political retribution, plain and simple, which is why we filed our lawsuit to stop the president from targeting and punishing New Yorkers in the first place. We will continue to defend New York’s right to pass its own laws and will fight to protect our state’s residents anytime they are bullied by the president because safety and fairness are not mutually exclusive under the law.”

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer asked U.S. Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to investigate why and how false statements were made by DHS officials to the Justice Department, the public and the court.

“Yesterday, in a filing in U.S. District Court in New York, the Justice Department was forced to make the extraordinary admission that officials at the Department of Homeland Security had made inaccurate or misleading statements to the court about the Department’s February 2020 decision to bar New Yorkers from several Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry and TSA PreCheck,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the Inspector General. “While it has always been obvious that the department’s action was taken in political retaliation against residents in my state, DHS had maintained – until now – the implausible explanation that New York’s policies were somehow a threat to national security.”

Schumer went on to say that lying to a federal court is a very serious matter and there must be accountability for the persons involved. He asked that the department conduct an investigation and provide answers to the following questions:

  • Did officials within DHS order, direct, encourage or suggest that these false statements be made to the Justice Department, the public or the court?
  • With whom outside DHS did officials discuss the false narrative, including officials at the White House, Justice Department and other agencies?
  • To what extent were discussions of the false narrative by DHS, Justice Department or White House officials conducted via electronic mail or messaging?
  • Did White House officials, up to and including the President, order, direct, encourage or suggest that DHS bar New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler programs and use a false narrative to justify that decision?

“Given that the Administration’s actions in this case involve potential violations of criminal law, I urge you to treat this investigation urgently and report your findings as quickly as possible,” Schumer wrote.

CBP this week said the Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers will remain closed until at least Sept. 8, 2020. CBP said the enrollment centers would remain closed “to ensure the health and safety of program applicants and CBP personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The decision was made, CBP officials said, in consultation with agency health and safety experts who continue to watch “the increase in COVID-19 cases across the United States.”

In order to minimize the impact of the enrollment centers’ closure on Trusted Traveler Programs applicants, CBP has extended the period of time that applicants have to complete the enrollment process, the agency said. Every applicant now has 545 days from the date that CBP conditionally approves his or her application to complete the enrollment process. In addition, CBP will extend for up to 18 months the program benefits of members who apply for renewal before their current membership expires.

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New York imposes quarantine on travelers from certain states

Governors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have enacted a joint incoming travel advisory that will require travelers coming from certain areas to quarantine for two weeks.

Announced Wednesday and made effective at midnight last night, the new travel advisory requires anyone coming from states with significant community spread of COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days from the time of last contact within the identified state.

The quarantine applies to anyone arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average, or from a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average. In recent days more than half of the states have reported a resurgence of the virus following the reopening of businesses and public venues.

“In New York, we went from the highest number of cases to some of the lowest rates in the country — no one else had to bend the curve as much as we did and now we have to make sure that the rate continues to drop in our entire region,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “We’ve been working with our neighbors in New Jersey and Connecticut throughout this entire pandemic, and we’re announcing a joint travel advisory that says people coming in from states with a high infection rate must quarantine for 14 days. We’ve worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down and we don’t want to see it go up again because people are traveling into the state and bringing it with them.”

The tri-state measure will use uniform parameters and messaging on highways, airports, websites and social media across the three states, officials said. The three states will also ask hotels to communicate the 14-day quarantine to guests who have traveled from one of the impacted states.

Separately, President Trump, who is planning a trip to his Bedminster golf club this weekend, has said he does not plan to quarantine, despite having recently been in Arizona, one of the states designated as a hotspot requiring quarantine. In a statement, a White House spokesman said the president is not a civilian and anyone who has come in contact with him has been tested for COVID-19 and the results were negative.

The quarantine advisory at this point applies to Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas.

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Visit Rochester to provide safety pledge tool to tourism industry

Visit Rochester has introduced a new tool for the tourism and hospitality industry.

ROC Ready Promise is a tool for Rochester-area tourism businesses to communicate their compliance with public health recommendations to keep employees, customers and guests safe. The visual tool also is a message to customers and guests that they will need to work to support health and safety measures at area businesses as well, officials said.

Businesses displaying the ROC Ready Promise are showing their customers and guests that the health and safety of their patrons is a priority. By making the promise, businesses have pledged to wash their hands frequently and have hand sanitizer available; wear protective gear like face masks and gloves; follow social distancing practices within their establishments; implement “contactless” processes and payments wherever possible; require guests to wear masks and other PPE as necessary; follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and sanitation; conduct wellness screenings of employees; and keep employees informed on COVID-19 in our community.

Visit Rochester plans to send information on the ROC Ready Promise to Rochester-area tourism and hospitality partner businesses but is encouraging companies in other industries to download and display the promise. A digital badge also is available for businesses to use on their websites or share on other social media.

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TSA offers tips for flying during pandemic

As the number of travelers choosing to fly has plunged, individuals continue to use air travel as a means to get from point A to point B. As a result, the Transportation Security Administration has issued a number of tips for travelers who must fly:

• Bring hand sanitizer with you — TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces, per passenger in carry-on bags. Since the containers exceed the standard 3.4-ounce allowance, they will need to be screened separately and will add some time to the checkpoint screening experience. All other liquids must adhere to the typical allowance.
• Bring alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes with you — TSA said travelers are allowed to bring individually-packaged alcohol or anti-bacterial wipes in carry-on or checked bags. Jumbo containers of hand wipes also are allowed in carry-on and checked luggage.
• Wear a mask – Travelers are allowed to wear masks during the security screening processing, but a TSA officer may ask the traveler to adjust the mask to visually confirm their identity during the document checking process.
• Don’t panic if your license expired on or after March 1 — If you were unable to renew your driver’s license or other state-issued identification after March 1, you are allowed to use it as acceptable identification at the security checkpoint. TSA will accept expired IDs a year after expiration or for 60 days during the pandemic. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has announced an extension of time to obtain the REAL ID-compliant driver’s license until Oct. 1, 2021.
• Place items you would typically carry in your pockets in your carry-on bag — Before going through the TSA checkpoint, place items from your pockets into your carry-on to avoid putting them in the bins.
• Continue to wash your hands — TSA recommends washing your hands before and after going through the security checkpoint.

Experts say passenger traffic likely will decline by nearly 40 percent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenue expected to contract by $77 billion in 2020.

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Finger Lakes Airbnb hosts earned $3.6 million last summer

Airbnb’s Finger Lakes host community earned a combined $3.6 million and welcomed some 17,100 guests during the biggest weekends last summer.

Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, said during the five biggest weekends of 2019, hosts in the Finger Lakes recorded the following activity:
• July 12-14 – 3,700 guests and $700,000
• July 19-21 – 3,600 guests and $800,000
• Aug. 9-11 – 3,400 guests and $700,000
• Aug. 16-18 – 3,200 guests and $700,000
• July 26-28 – 3,200 guests and $700,000

“2019 was another great year for Airbnb in the Finger Lakes, with more residents embracing the economic opportunities offered by home-sharing—and small businesses and entire communities benefiting as a result,” said Josh Meltzer, head of Airbnb’s Northeast public policy. “As we dive into this new year we are especially proud of the important role that our hosts have played in creating additional accommodations supply during the region’s top travel weekends while leveraging this demand to earn supplemental income.”

An Airbnb survey of more than 35,000 hosts and guests shows that 92 percent of hosts recommend restaurants and cafes to guests and 56 percent recommend local cultural activities such as museums and festivals. On average, Airbnb guests say 41 percent of their spending occurs in the neighborhood where they stay.

It is estimated that Airbnb guests spent nearly $800 million at restaurants and cafes across New York State in 2019, officials said, up from $680 million in 2018.

Some 56 percent of hosts say renting their homes via Airbnb has helped them afford their houses. Officials said hosts keep 97 percent of the money their rentals generate and since the business was founded, hosts have earned more than $65 billion.

Monroe County had 41,600 Airbnb guests in 2019, generating $5.1 million for hosts. Ontario County had 23,500 guests, generating $3.5 million for hosts, while Yates County had 11,900 guests, generating $2 million for hosts.

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Gas prices drop just in time for Memorial Day travel

Whether by planes or trains or automobiles, Americans will be traveling at record volumes this weekend.

AAA projects that nearly 43 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this Memorial Day weekend—with a record-breaking number taking road trips. The vast majority of travelers, some 37.6 million, will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 3.5 percent more than last year.

And drivers will pay less for gas this year than last, AAA Western and Central New York said. The average price for a gallon of gasoline in New York State is $2.96—last year it was $3.08. The national average is $2.84, according to AAA.

Gas prices across the state vary, but not by much:
• Batavia – $2.85
• Buffalo – $2.89
• Ithaca – $2.87
• Rochester – $2.89
• Rome – $2.89
• Syracuse – $2.86
• Watertown – $2.96 this week reported that 75 percent of Americans will take a road trip this summer, a 16 percent increase from last year, although 38 percent cited high gas prices for impacting their summer travel decisions.

The national average for gas prices had surged 67 cents from the beginning of the year until May 4, when it peaked at $2.89. GasBuddy predicts the national average for Memorial Day weekend will be $2.83 per gallon, 14 cents cheaper than a year ago.

“For many Americans, this spring has pinched pocketbooks at a dizzying rate, but that still won’t hold back many from hitting the road for the 90 days or so of prime summer weather,” GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis Patrick DeHaan said in a statement. “While the rise in prices has been steep this spring, perhaps the most important factor is that in many places, gas prices are still well below their all-time highs and perhaps even more importantly, over 50 percent of the nation’s gas stations are selling at $2.99 per gallon or less, and that’s a key ingredient in the recipe for many Americans to hit the road again this summer.”

GasBuddy on May 20 reported Rochester’s average gas price as $2.88, compared with $3.02 a year ago. On May 20, 2011, the average price at the pump locally was $4.01 per gallon.

In a separate statement, DeHaan noted that with a trade deal with China unlikely, we may continue to see weakness in oil and gas prices.

“Of course, the trade tensions are not the only issue we’re monitoring for now, but we continue to believe that additional slow relief will trickle to pumps in the next week as more refiners get back into the game and boost production,” he said. “I expect the bulk of states to see lower gas prices continue just in time for Memorial Day while some, inevitably, will see increases.”

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Gas prices on the rise and so is travel

Despite rising prices at the pump, more travelers than ever will take to the roads this Thanksgiving holiday.

Nearly 3.2 million New Yorkers are expected to travel during the holiday, AAA Western and Central New York predicts, and more than 2.8 million plan to drive to their Thanksgiving destination.

AAA predicts 51 million Americans will travel 50 or more miles between Nov. 22 and Nov. 26, the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in a dozen years.

But they’ll pay more this year to do it than they did last year.

Statewide, drivers are paying $2.70 for a gallon of gasoline, up 4 cents from a week ago. A year ago, however, Thanksgiving travelers in New York paid $2.39 a gallon. Nationally, the average price for a gallon of gas this week was $2.55, up 40 cents from a year ago.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” said Carol DiOrio in  a statement. She is vice president of travel at AAA Western and Central New York. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”

Multiple factors are responsible for the increase in pump prices over the last several weeks, AAA officials said. A spike in crude oil prices last week contributed heavily to those increases. Also at play: an increase in crude oil stocks, as well as a decrease in gas inventories and sustained driving demand.

In Rochester, drivers were paying about $2.63 per gallon this week, up 3 cents from a week ago, but 30 cents from a year ago, reported. Buffalo area drivers are paying $2.62 per gallon, while in Syracuse, the average price of a gallon of gas is $2.57.

“If you use gas prices to figure out the time of year it is, you’d probably think it’s spring based on the continued upward trend showing up in much of the country,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “Absent is the beloved fall at the pump that we’re used to that accompanies the fall weather, but apparently this year is playing a trick on motorists. The cheapest price this year was in July while the most expensive showed up after the driving season concluded as Harvey hit, and we may get closer to that mark as gasoline inventories continue to drift to new multi-year lows.”

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