Gas lines will be shorter today – but the crisis is far from over.
Officials in the city and on Long Island are imposing an odd/even license-plate rationing scheme effective this morning to reduce hours-long lines at the pump and help stations hang on to their supplies a little longer.
Police were at gas stations to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island. Drivers were out before dawn to line up for their rations.
“It’s even better than Christmas,” said Peter Bedford, 40, a city worker. He thinks the new license plate rationing system is working. “It shortened up the line. At least you know you can get gas.”
“I’ve been around – I’ve been in Vietnam – let me tell you, when they have the gas rationing it works,” said Mike Unik.
The new system has the support of at least one station manager.
People are less panicky,” said Angel Sanchez, 57. Sanchez run the Hess station on Fourth Avenue and 30th Street.
“This is a much better system. They know they can get gas. For me the new system is better.”
Police managing the gas lines say there are more gas stations open, which also helped ease congestion.
“People can fill up and they don’t have to come back for a couple days,” one officer said.
At a Shell Station on 124th Street and Morningside Avenue, driver Anthony Dorsey was able to fill up, even with cops on the line and even-numbered plates.
“I didn’t know that, I already had some and I saw the line was short so I said ‘let me get me some more’. I waited in line two hours the other day,” Dorsey, 43, said as he pumped $15.02 worth of fuel.
Chiles Searcy, 50, driving a Lincoln MK Z with even-numbered plates said he only had to wait about 10 minutes for gas. He also said he was unaware of the new fill-up rules.
Some drivers were frustrated by the lack of enforcement.
Miss Samuel, who has an odd-numbered plate said that while it was “good to have the officers” there to monitor the situation, “they should enforce regulations.”
Customers at a Hess Station in Hell’s Kitchen said the rationing system appeared to be working so far.
Luis Cruz, 35, of the Bronx, got gas for the Dodge minivan that he uses for his job as a pet chauffeur.
“It’s a lot better,” Cruz said. “A couple of days ago I waited four hours. They should have done this a long time ago.”
The line to the station was just a block and a half long Friday morning and customers said they waited about 15 minutes to gas up.
A Mobil station in Rego Park had one line pump just for customers with gas cans and three others for drivers, each manned by an employee to help keep order.
“I’ve been here since a little after 8:30. It’s taken time, but this is civilized,” said Rego Park resident Muriel Feldman. “I got the newspaper. I’m reading. It’s a beautiful day.”
Driver Carol Murano, who waited for about 45 minutes to fuel up, said “I believe this is the only fair way to do things in view of the present circumstance.”
Not all drivers liked the new system.
“The people with the gas cans. We don’t know if they have cars. So they’re getting gas and I’m still waiting. No one has to know,” said Dylan Ohehie, 22.
Near a still-closed auto tunnel linking Manhattan and Brooklyn early Friday, cab and delivery truck drivers – exempt from the rationing system – eyed with dismay a line of closed gas stations.
“Hey, when’s the gas coming?” one driver hollered, to honking horns. “Tomorrow, we hope,” the attendant replied, shrugging his shoulders.
The new rules – expected to last for weeks – require cars to fuel up on alternating days.
If the last number of your plate is odd or the character is a letter, you can get gas only on an odd-numbered date, and even numbers go on even dates.
It took time to impose odd-even gas rationing here because city officials were waiting to “see what the behavior pattern is of motorists,” Mayor Bloomberg said today.
Fill-ups by the numbers took effect this morning within the five boroughs, the same restriction Gov. Christie ordered in New Jersey six days ago to reduce miles-long lines for fuel.
On his weekly WOR radio show today, the mayor said there was no point even considering the odd-even system until power returned and gas stations could resume pumping.
“Once the gas came in, you have to see what the behavior pattern is,” Bloomberg went on. “And there’s no guarantee that odd-even is going to make a big difference. It’s certainly not going to make for more gas…In New Jersey, there’s some evidence– although it’s hard to measure– but there’s some evidence that the lines were shorter.”
Yesterday, Bloomberg said wait times in the Garden State dropped from two hours to 45 minutes after rationing.
A mayoral aide pointed out that less than 50 percent of residents here have cars, while New Jersey is a “car culture” where even a trip to the train requires a ride first.
“They’re 100 percent car reliant,” said the aide.”We are not.”
The city’s move comes amid crippling disruptions to the petroleum supply chain by Hurricane Sandy that have closed about 75 percent of New York City’s 800 gas stations, Mayor Bloomberg said.
Still shut down are eight of 57 fuel terminals, where gas-distribution tanker trucks fill up.
The drastic measure comes as:
* Some 32,281 city Con Ed customers remained without power last night, with another 23,096 in Westchester County.
There were 141,749 outages in Nassau County, 39,681 in the Rockaways and 70,938 in Suffolk County, according to the Long Island Power Authority.
* The storm is expected to cost as much as $33 billion, making it one of the 10 costliest hurricanes ever. Hurricane Katrina – the most expensive – cost $108 billion and caused 1,200 deaths in 2005.
* Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes yesterday empaneled a special rackets grand jury to probe price gouging at hotels and gas stations, calling the practice “unconscionable.”
* The Queens-Midtown Tunnel reopened to traffic today for the first time since the storm. The only crossing into Manhattan still closed is the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
The MTA also restored service between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the L train.
* A Manhattan federal judge has given the green light to a class-action suit charging that the city isn’t prepared to deal with the needs of the disabled during disasters.
Some New Yorkers found hope in the new gas policy – similar to the scheme already in effect in 12 New Jersey counties.
“These lines have been ridiculous,” said Patrick Tubridy, 37, of the Rockaways.
Until this point, Tubridy said he’d been “disappointed” with Bloomberg’s handling of the crisis.
“It’s always ‘Manhattan Mike,’ always business, no heart,” he said. “So I applaud his decision. He’s actually recognizing there’s issues outside of Manhattan.”
Exacerbating the existing problems was a partial failure Wednesday of a terminal that pumps 4.5 million gallons of gas a day to New York City and Long Island.
That terminal – which is served by the Buckeye Pipeline – regained power after the nor’easter, but the brief outage caused a devastating interruption to the supply chain.
Bloomberg said it could be weeks before it gets back to normal.
“The best way we think to cut down the lines and help customers buy gas faster, to help gas stations stay open longer and to reduce the potential for disorder is to alternate the days that drivers can purchase gas,” he said.
Richee Singh, a Rockaways resident who lost four vehicles in the storm, said desperate times require desperate measures.
“I think it’s a good idea to do that. It’s too dangerous over here without it,” he said.
Others were skeptical.
“I think it’s a little late. The lines aren’t that bad on Staten Island today,” said a BP owner in the borough.
The scarcity of gas has caused a jump in prices all over the region hit hard by the storm.
The average cost of a gallon in New York City jumped to $4.14 in the past week, a 15-cent hike, according to AAA.
New Jersey prices rose by 10 cents to an average of $3.65, while Long Island jumped 21 cents to $4.12, AAA found.
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