Radio PA Roundtable – August 22, 2014

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, some Pennsylvania-based aid workers lend a hand in dealing with unaccompanied minors at the southern U.S. border; Pennsylvania is seeing big drops in auto thefts; and the end of summer is near…a preview of Labor Day travel expectations.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting, commentary and analysis on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

Random Octane Testing of PA Gasoline

Sticker Shock at the Pump

Drivers are taking another hit in the wallet with a jump in gas prices this month.

Nationally, gas prices are up 12 cents in just a week. AAA blames the sticker shock on higher crude prices- which have risen 17 percent in four weeks.  In Pennsylvania, the average price of gas has risen 15 cents a gallon since a month ago.

Jenny Robinson of AAA Mid Atlantic says global events like the unrest in Egypt and some production disruptions in Libya, Iraq and Nigeria are factors, but there are issues at home as well.  She says there are a number of refineries that are undergoing maintenance and repairs.  At the same time, we’re in the middle of peak summer vacation season, boosting demand.

Robinson   says experts believe prices could creep up at least a few more cents before the end of summer.  Any hurricanes could add to the pump price.

AAA Releases Holiday Travel Projections

AAA is out with its projections for Fourth of July travel, and expects to see fewer people on the highways this year.   The auto club predicts that more than 40 million travelers will make trips of fifty miles or more over the Independence Day holiday, a decline of just under one percent from last year.

The dip could be due to the calendar. Last year, the holiday was on a Wednesday, creating a six day holiday period for many people.  With the Fourth falling on a Thursday this year, the holiday period is shorter.

Most travelers will visit friends or relatives, dine out or sight see. Many will go to the beach or waterfront. The survey shows more plan to visit national or state parks this year than last.

About 85% will go by vehicle, down slightly from last year, with air travel up slightly. The average travel distance is down from last year but spending will be about the same.

The holiday travel period runs from July 3rd through the 7th, with Wednesday and Sunday expected to be the busiest travel days.

AAA Projects a Slight Decline in Memorial Day Travel

There won’t be as many Americans hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend according to AAA projections, but there will still be a lot of travelers.

Just under 35 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend according to AAA, down about one percent from 2012.  Nearly 90% will travel by vehicle.  Air travel is expected to decrease. Median spending will also be down as travelers look for ways to save.  The Memorial Day travel period runs from May 23-27.

Jenny Robinson of AAA Mid Atlantic says that while gas prices may be lower in most places than they were last Memorial Day weekend, there are economic factors affecting travel. She says the labor force participation rate fell to a 30 year low in March. She says pent up demand also pushed up travel in recent years and much of that demand may have been met.

Visiting friends and family and dining out are the top activities for the holiday weekend. People also plan to go shopping, visit the beach or go touring and sightseeing over the long holiday weekend.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 11.16.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman brings you legislative reviews from the Pennsylvania Farm bureau and the state Senate Majority Leader. Also, PA Auditor General Jack Wagner releases a 100+ page report on Penn State University and AAA weighs in on how Sandy will impact Thanksgiving travel this week and used car sales in the coming months.


Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

Random Octane Testing of PA Gasoline

Long Hot Summer at the Gas Pump Just About Over

After two months of rising gas prices, we should soon be getting a break.   The nation saw the largest gas price increase for the month of August in seven years following on the heels of July’s rising prices at the pump according to AAA. Prices rose nationally more than 30 cents a gallon. The rise was 21 cents a gallon in Pennsylvania.

Jenny Robinson of AAA Mid Atlantic says prices rose 4 cents a gallon during the past week, but held steady over the Labor Day weekend.  She says they are hoping that prices will begin to drop as we head into September.

Several factors are now at play; summer driving demand is dwindling, Gulf Coast refineries are reopening following Hurricane Isaac, and refineries are beginning to switch to less expensive winter blends.

Refineries in the Gulf were shut down as a precaution and did not see any significant damage from the storm.

Last September, gas prices dropped by about five percent.

Hitting the Road for the Holiday Weekend?

As Pennsylvanians approach the unofficial end of summer this Labor Day weekend, many will be setting out for one last road trip before fall. AAA Mid-Atlantic expects holiday travel to be up about 2.3% in this region over last Labor Day, with most people traveling by car despite higher gasoline prices and a sluggish economy.

Jenny Robinson from AAA says dining out, visits to relatives and shopping will top many holiday lists this weekend, with round-trips averaging about 744 miles. As of Wednesday, the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.78.

For the 8% or so expected to travel by air, Hurricane Isaac could throw a wrinkle into your travel plans, especially if you’re planning to fly to the south or Midwest. The storm was already disrupting travel the past several days, and after making landfall last night in Louisiana, the system is expected to amble north through Arkansas and Missouri and then into Illinois and Indiana.

Americans Ready to Travel for Labor Day Despite Higher Gas Prices

Americans are ready to travel for Labor Day weekend, despite the higher gas prices.   AAA expects travel to be up almost 3% nationwide for the holiday with increases in both car and air travel.

Jenny Robinson of AAA Mid Atlantic says   consumer confidence has improved compared to a year ago and more people are prioritizing travel.  Timing may be a factor as well; she says travel tends to go up when the holiday weekend begins at the end of August.  This year, Labor Day falls on September 3rd and the travel period begins on August 30th.

There are signs of economizing, with more than half of travelers saying their trips will be shorter.  While the number of projected miles per trip is up slightly over last year, Robinson says air travel is likely fueling the extra miles.  More people are expected to head to their destinations by both plane and car than last Labor Day weekend. Travel by automobile is expected to rise by 3.1% with air travel up 3.7%. Median spending is expected to increase slightly.

It’s the third increase in holiday travel this year.  AAA projects that 33 million Americans will make trips of 50 miles or more during the last holiday weekend of summer. As the holiday weekend approaches, further shifts in gas prices could encourage, or discourage travel.

PA Mulls Extending, Expanding Red Light Camera Program

21-states and the District of Columbia allow for some form of red light cameras.  Pennsylvania can be counted among them, but the Automated Red Light Enforcement program is currently limited to Philadelphia, where the cameras are operating at 19-intersections. 

Appearing before the House Transportation Committee, Monday, PennDOT testified to the program’s success.  “We found that there was a 15 – 16% reduction in red light running crashes, overall, throughout the entire city,” says Deputy Secretary Scott Christie.  He also testified to a 50% reduction in violations after 18-months. 

AAA Mid-Atlantic supports Pennsylvania’s program because they say it is well-written.  “Traffic enforcement, and especially automated means such as red light cameras, must be clearly focused on safety – not revenue generation – to earn AAA’s support,” says Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Ron Kosh.     

The committee heard conflicting testimony on whether the implementation of red light cameras actually increases the instances of rear-end crashes at busy intersections.  Regardless, Jim Walker with the National Motorists Association says there’s a better way to improve intersections safety: increasing the duration of yellow lights.  “A 2003 Texas Transportation Institute Study concluded an increase of one-half to one and a half seconds of yellows, decreased red light violations by at least 50%,” says the association’s Jim Walker. 

Legislation to expand the use of red light cameras to 19 additional cities has already passed the state Senate with a vote of 34 – 14.  Under SB 595, fines would max out at $100, and the revenue would have to be used for traffic safety improvements.  Philadelphia’s program is also on track to sunset at the end of the year, unless state lawmakers act to extend it.

Gov. Corbett Signs Teen Driver Safety Law

She worked on the legislation for six years and, Tuesday, Rep. Kathy Watson (R-Bucks) was able to see the fruits of her labor.  “I wouldn’t have stayed with it this long if I truly didn’t believe we will save lives with this,” Watson said in an interview with Radio PA

Teen Driver Safety Law

Gov. Corbett has signed "Lacey's Law." It's named after Lacey Gallagher who was killed when a car carrying seven teens crashed on the way to a post-prom party in 2007. None were wearing seat belts.

The new law will limit junior drivers to one teenage passenger for their first six months behind the wheel, add 15-hours of nighttime and bad weather driving to driver training requirements and make seatbelt requirements a primary offense for drivers and passengers under the age of 18. 

By making seatbelt use a primary offense for minors, police officers will be able to stop a driver solely for that violation.  Governor Tom Corbett calls this the next step in keeping Pennsylvania children safe.  “Can we put them in that bubble and keep everybody completely safe, no.  But, every step is an improvement to that,” Corbett said while signing the new law at Harrisburg High School. 

Corbett also made it clear that cell phone legislation is on deck.  “The legislature has a texting bill,” Corbett said.  “I want that passed.  Can I be any clearer than that?” The mechanics of hand-held cellphone and texting while driving bans have long been a sticking point in the General Assembly.  Speaking on the House floor, Tuesday, Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) expressed his intention to pass separate bills to address hand-held cellphones and texting. 

Rep. Watson supports drivers’ cellphone bans, but says she left the language out of her teen driver safety bill because the issue affects all drivers.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re texting when you’re 18, or 38, or 68, it’s not safe,” Watson says.