An 'I'm Stuck' app for jammed holiday travel

It's summer's last fling. Roads will be jammed, trains crowded, and airplanes full. Ah, Labor Day weekend.

Nearly 35 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home for end-of-summer celebrations, the highest volume for the holiday since 2008, said AAA, the nation's largest auto club. The majority, 29.7 million, will drive.

While that travel is good for the economy, thousands will be frustrated by longer travel times, congestion, delays, and the lack of alternative transportation options, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

The industry group is promoting a free app that allows delayed commuters to directly e-mail their U.S. representative or senator to complain about the roads, rails, and airport hassles.

"Traffic and congestion is not like the weather - we can actually solve our traffic problems and congestion with the right federal policies and the right investment," said Erik Hansen, senior director of domestic policy at the U.S. Travel Association. "But Congress isn't going to act unless they hear from people in large numbers."

The app, called "I'm Stuck," is available on iPhone and Android. Open the app, which plugs into an individual Congress member's e-mail system, and take a picture or send a message.

The U.S. Travel Association partnered with Building America's Future to launch the app and raise awareness about the need to invest in the nation's roads, bridges, airports, rails, and ports. The education group's cochairmen include former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Closer to home, more than 467,000 from the Philadelphia area will travel between Thursday and Monday, a 0.6 percent increase but the highest percentage for the region since 2010, AAA said. Labor Day weekend ranks second to July 4 for summer travel.

In New Jersey, more than one million will take trips, up 1 percent from last year. More than 881,000 will travel by car, and 89,735 by air.

Most U.S. consumers are paying the lowest August gasoline prices since 2010.

AAA says lower gas prices will have little impact on the number of people traveling.

"People plan their trips ahead of time, and if they want to go, they go," said Jenny Robinson, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "If there is a severe bump higher, it might affect some people's plans. The fact that gas prices are down is more or less just a piece of good news."

Consumer spending continues to rise, despite stagnant income growth, according to AAA. Reliance on credit cards, rather than increasing income, is fueling holiday travel spending.

Nearly 8 percent of U.S. travelers, or 2.65 million, will travel by air, up 1 percent from last year. Airfares are up 2 percent on the 40 most popular routes. Average daily car rental rates remain the same at $51.

The current national average gas price is $3.43 a gallon, compared with $3.59 last Labor Day.

Philadelphia-area motorists are seeing the cheapest prices for the year so far, AAA said.

The average gas price Tuesday in Philadelphia and the four surrounding Pennsylvania suburbs was $3.47. The previous low was $3.49 a gallon on Feb. 7. Motorists paid $3.61 per gallon for the 2013 Labor Day weekend.

The current gas price in New Jersey is $3.26, compared with $3.51 last Labor Day. In southern New Jersey, it is $3.18.