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Spokane

Full-service stations still filling a niche

Mon., July 17, 2006, midnight

Full-service gas stations, where attendants pump your fuel, check your car’s fluids and tires and wash the windshield, are nearing extinction. But a few still reside in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

Many full-service customers are older women, said Lloyd Mumford, who owns the Fourth Street Garage, a Chevron station in Coeur d’Alene. Some have never touched a gas pump despite decades of driving.

Taking care of those regular customers is a big reason his gas station never has done away with full service.

“We also get people who are all dressed up for a night on the town, and they don’t want to have the odor of fuel on them,” Mumford said.

Some ask to have their vehicle’s fluids and tires checked. Others don’t.

Full-service fill-ups make up about 15 percent to 20 percent of Mumford’s business.

But lack of full-service customers and the high cost of providing the service have driven it out of most gas stations.

“Did you find one?” gas station expert Tim Hamilton asked when contacted about full-service filling stations.

Full service began disappearing about the same time as gas station repair shops, said Hamilton, executive director of the Automotive United Trades Association.

“If you have someone who can stop doing a lube or filter job and run out and help grandma, it can work,” he said of full-service fill-ups. But an attendant can’t simply walk away from a cash register.

And then there’s the cost.

“Consumers shop for price, and service has gone away as a means of determining where you’re going to buy your gasoline,” said Hamilton.

Full-service costs more.

“When the price of fuel went up to about 3 bucks, I started to see a lot of my full-service customers, even little old ladies, going over to the self-service side,” said Greg Svoboda, owner of Svoboda’s Texaco, on 29th Avenue near the Lincoln Heights shopping center.

Though no longer labeled as such, the inside lane at that station still functions as a full-service aisle for those who don’t want to pump their own gas.

At one time, Svoboda advertised full-service on his reader board. But since that advertising was recently removed and all lanes now accept self-service customers, full-service business has dropped off, he said.

Svoboda has moved to a flat $5 fee for full-service rather than an additional charge per gallon of gas. It amounts to about the same as paying a premium for eight gallons of gas, he said.

For some full-service is the only way.

Ed Santorsola owns Foley’s Auto Repair, a gas station and repair shop purchased by his father in 1959. The station at Napa and Boone in northeast Spokane has no self-service gas because most drivers are unfamiliar with how to operate its old pumps. It would cost too much to replace them.

And since gas is not the largest part of Santorsola’s business, he has a strategy for when the attached shop gets really busy.

Ed simply walks over to the gas sign and raises the price.

Ta-da, fewer fill-ups.

No idling, please

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is encouraging drivers to shut-off their engines if they are going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds.

It’s more fuel-efficient to restart your car than to leave it idling for long periods of time, and reducing the number of cars sitting still with engines running also improves air quality.

With longer light cycles in the downtown Spokane area during Interstate 90 viaduct construction, now might be a good time to consider cutting down on idling there, too.

Prairie progress

The Post Falls Highway District is about halfway through its Prairie Avenue construction project.

“We’re getting ready to pave the first phase of the project. Then we’ll move traffic onto that, and remove the existing road on the other side and bring it to grade,” said Kelly Brownsberger, supervisor of the highway district.

Quite a bit of dirt will have to be removed because the road needs to be built on the subgrade below the thick topsoil, Brownsberger said.

Drivers won’t be able to cross Prairie on Ramsey and Huetter until the roadway is lowered.

The project is scheduled to be complete by late October or early November.

Slow going

I-90

I-90 is reduced to two lanes in each direction between Division and Maple. Most nights it will be further reduced to one lane in each direction. The Monroe/Lincoln ramps are closed, as are the westbound Browne Street on-ramp and the eastbound Maple on-ramp and eastbound Division exit. The speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph. No changing lanes.

North Spokane

Rutter Parkway is closed from Highway 291 to Hope Lane. Flaggers will also be directing single-lane traffic most days on Highway 291 near Rutter Parkway and Charles Road.

Crestline Street is closed from Lincoln Road to Francis Avenue. Lincoln Road is closed from Napa Street to Crestline. Detours are in place.

West Plains

Hayford Road is under construction from Highway 2 to Sprague Avenue. Only one lane of traffic is open in each direction.

South Spokane

Highway 195 construction between Rosalia and Plaza may reduce traffic to one lane at times.

Bernard Street is closed from 14th-29th Avenue. Traffic is detoured to Grand and Lincoln streets.

Work on 37th Avenue closes it from Bernard Street to Grand Boulevard.

Freya Street reconstruction will close traffic to all but local access from Hartson and 11th Avenue and from 18th and 37th avenues. Detours are in place.

Regal Road is under construction from 57th to the Palouse Highway. Expect delays.

The Palouse Highway is closed between Valley Chapel Road and Dunn Road. Detours are in place.

Spokane Valley

Broadway Avenue overlay work is under way between Bates Road and Sullivan Road. Expect lane restrictions.

Barker Road is closed from Boone to Euclid for road widening.

Idaho

Prairie Avenue remains under construction between Ramsey and Huetter.

The Government Way bridge in Coeur d’Alene is closed to traffic.

Construction on Lancaster Road between Government Way and Strahorn may cause delays.


 

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