Gov. John N. Dalton today called on Virginia residents "to leave their cars at home one day a week" as an initial voluntary step to avoid compulsory gasoline conservation.

Dalton called for the voluntary driving restraint as he imposed a mandatory, 10 percent reduction in use of state owned vehicles, other than those used for law enforcement, emergencies and construction.

The governor said at a press conference that he expects the state automobile cutback will save 50,000 gallons of gasoline a month and almost $500,000 a year in state funds.

In answer to a question, he defended the state's current level of support of mass transit projects and said "we may have to do more in the future."

Dalton encouraged state employes to use public transportation whenever possible and said his administrative assistant, Larry Murphy, is monitoring the commuting habits of the governor's staff of 25 to encourage car pooling. Murphy said later that five staff members now car pool and he is shooting for a goal of about 10.

Dalton was criticized last year for sending two state cars to Miami before he flew to the city with legislators on a state plane. The cars were used to carry luggage and for transportation in Florida.

Murphy said the governor has recently reduced his use of the state plane for economy reasons.