With no end in sight to the gas shortage, starting Friday, New York drivers will have to play a game of musical chairs at the pump.
As the fuel crisis deepens, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered gas rationing in the city starting at 6 a.m. Friday based on license plate numbers.
The mayor said fuel delivery had been set back by many factors, including Wednesday's nor'easter, and something needed to be done to reduce the lines at gas stations. The situation has led to lines that stretch for blocks, fights among frustrated drivers and mass reports of gas siphoning from cars and even boats.
"This is something that is practical, enforceable and understandable," he said of the rationing plan.
Cars with license plates ending in odd numbers or letters will only be allowed to gas up on odd days while the rest of New York's cars are only allowed to fuel on even days.
Commercial vehicles, taxis, buses and other cars, such as ones with MD plates, are exempt.
Cops are stationed at every station in the five boroughs and will enforce the law that will be in effect until at least next week, according to the mayor.
"This is designed to give everyone a fair chance," he said.
The mayor noted that New Jersey's gas ration order that went into effect last week reduced wait times at gas stations from as much as two hours to 45 minutes but couldn't guarantee a similar result.
Nassau and Suffolk counties issued similar ration plans for drivers in their neighborhoods as well.
The last time New York had a rationing plan was during the energy crisis in the 1970s.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the main problem is the distribution from tankers to refineries in Brooklyn and Long Island, which aren't running due to the lack of electricity.
Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA New York, said the plan was necessary because gas shortage in the city had reached crisis levels.
Only 29 percent of stations are operating in the city, according to the spokesman.
"With those kinds of numbers and so few getting gas it makes sense to have this rationing," he said.
Sinclair didn't predict any public outcry from the rationing plan since drivers are already frustrated with the shortages.
"If they see some relief that helps with cutting back the lines they'll be all for it," he said.