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Gas rationing plan draws praise in New Jersey

9:24 AM, Nov 6, 2012   |    comments
New Jersey state troopers keep order as motorists line up to purchase gasoline Sunday at the Thomas A. Edison service area on the New Jersey Turnpike.(Photo: Mel Evans, AP)
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The gas rationing system imposed by Gov. Chris Christie won some credit from New Jersey motorists and police Monday as residents went back to work in big numbers for the first time since Superstorm Sandy blasted the state last week.

"The lines are tremendously shorter,'' said West Orange police Sgt. Robert Cosentino, who was one of several officers stationed at a local BP station.

The station had opened at 6 a.m., and after selling nearly 8,600 gallons of gas, finally ran out in the early afternoon, said station manager Mike Cumur. Though some motorists had waited hours last week to fill up, Cumur said the wait on Monday was between 15 and 20 minutes.

Under the rationing system, motorists whose license plates end with an even number fill up on even-numbered days, and the opposite is true for those whose plates end with an odd number. When the new rule first kicked in, "people were a little nasty,'' Cumur says. "But now they know. ... It was a lot of help.''

Tanisha Prescod, of East Orange, has dealt with the region's ebbing gas flow firsthand. She has tried to fill up four times since Sandy hit.

"My first time I attempted to gas up, they threw me out of the line,'' said Prescod, who drives 30 miles round trip to work. "They said no more gas. That morning, my car cut off. I had to get somebody to push me all the way back to my house.''

Then, two days ago, Prescod waited in line three hours to get gas. Monday was different. She spotted a line at a West Orange Citgo station that stretched only halfway around the block. "I see the line and (I think) I'm going to take advantage of this,'' Prescod said. Looking at the odd/even rule, "I think it does make sense.''

Some gas station owners were still frustrated, said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-C-Store-Automotive Association, which represents 1,500 stations in the state.

The rationing, he said, "probably shortened the lines but it has not eased the real problem,'' he said. "There's still a lot of gas stations without power, a lot of stations without gas inventory. I have frustrated members, and they have frustrated customers.''

Risalvato said he does not know when the situation will return to normal.

"Everybody I've dealt with is working as hard, fast and furious as possible,'' Risalvato said. "I just think the overall problem is ... overwhelming and monumental.''

Many New Jersey commuters counting on public transit to get to work in Manhattan also had a long, hard day.

The wait at the Lincoln Tunnel during Monday morning's rush hour stretched to 90 minutes, said New Jersey Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder. And of the 63 New Jersey Transit trains that usually head into New York's Penn Station during the peak morning commuting time, only 13 were running on Monday in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, according to the agency.

But with commuter rail lines such as the PATH train not running at all, New Jersey Transit carried 170,000 commuters on Monday, 15% more than the 136,000 it typically serves in the weekday rush, Snyder said.

The crowding got so bad Monday morning that the North Jersey Coast rail line had to suspend service. Snyder said dozens of buses were added to winnow the lines at Newark's Penn Station to get commuters into New York City.

"There are going to be overcrowding issues,'' Snyder said. "It's not going to be full service as they knew it prior to the storm. We're making further adjustments and refinements based on what we experienced this morning to make it more efficient.''

USA Today

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