NEW YORK – With long gas lines persisting more than a week after Superstorm Sandy, New York imposed a gasoline rationing plan Thursday that lets motorists fill up every other day.
Police will be at gas stations today to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island. Gas will be available to drivers with license-plate numbers ending in an odd number or a letter on Friday. On Saturday, drivers with license plates that end in even numbers or zero can fuel up.
“It’ll be bad. How am I going to get my jobs done?” said Parris Hancock, a driver for a Manhattan catering company who makes deliveries from morning to night. “I’ll have to get up at 4 a.m. and just keep going back for gas and waiting in long lines.”
Officials said something had to be done to ease the long waits for fuel, which they say has caused panic-buying and hoarding.
“This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance, so the lines aren’t too oppressive and that we can get through this,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said the system worked well in New Jersey, where lines went from a two-hour wait to 45 minutes after Gov. Chris Christie announced a similar rationing plan.
“We have to do something,” Bloomberg said. “This is practical and enforceable and a lot better than doing nothing.”
Bloomberg said only a quarter of the city’s gas stations were open. Some were closed because they were out of power, others because they can’t get fuel from terminals and storage tanks that can’t unload their cargoes. One station owner in Queens’ Bayside section said the last time he had gas was three days ago.
“Whatever they can do to improve the situation, I’m in favor of,” cab driver Clee Walsh said as he drove into a BP station on West 36th Street only to discover that it had no gas.
Buses, taxes and limousines, commercial vehicles and emergency vehicles are exempt from the rationing plan, as are people carrying portable gas cans. Vanity plates that don’t have numbers are considered odd-numbered plates. Out-of-state drivers are also subject to the system.
The mayor said the shortages could last another couple of weeks, worrying owners like Ash Gaied.
“It’s more pressure on us,” Gaied said. “They yell. They curse. You wouldn’t believe it.”