Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments officials will present today a number of options, including an odd-even day system of gasoline purchases, to the chief executives of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia in an effort to find ways to ease the Washington area's gasoline crisis.
After meeting with gasoline retailers and local government officials through the weekend, technical experts from the council will meet this morning with Virginia Gov. John Dalton, Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. Besides the odd-even option, they also will discuss gasoline rationing plans and the feasibility of forcing service station owners to stagger the hours they are open.
Meanwhile, D.C. officials announced last night that they hope to increase the availability of gasoline here this week by supplying part of the city's emergency reserve to eight service stations that will be open evenings this week from Monday to Friday.
COG's presentation is part of a co-ordinated effort among the three regional governments to ease the crippling effects of local gasoline shortages in the last few weeks. COG officials stressed yesterday that their efforts entailed preparations of options, not specific recommendations.
For the first time today, rules setting minimum gasoline purchases went into effect in all local jurisdictions. In the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia, motorists must buy at least $5 of gasoline. In Maryland, motorists must purchase at least $5 for four-cylinder vehicles, and $7 for vehicles with six or eight cylinders. The rules were designed to discourage "topping off" and hoarding by motorists.
Later today, Dalton, Hughes, Barry and some congressmen will meet with COG officials on Capitol Hill in a meeting arranged by U.S. Rep. Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.).
Officials appeared yesterday to having varying expectations for the Capitol Hill meeting. They agreed that it would be an information-gathering session primarily, and said the meeting would not result in a specific, concerted plan for the area.
Dalton, questioned by reporters as he arrived by horse-drawn carriage for "Virginia Daay" at Wolf Trap Farm Park, said that Northern Virginia was the only area of the state affected by the gasoline crisis.
Referring to Harris, a strong proponent of the odd-even allocation system, Dalton said testily that part of the gasoline problem was caused by "certain political leaders making statements in the press that cause panic-buying."
Under an odd-even plan, motorists with odd-numbered license plates could purchase gasoline only on odd-numbered days. Motorists with even-numbered plates could purchase gas only on even-numbered days.
The plan would resemble that currently in effect in California. According to officials there, the plan has resulted in much shorter lines at service stations.
Spokesmen for all three local chief executives said yesterday that an odd-even plan here would only work if it were coordinated throughout the three jurisdictions.
"Any allocation or distribution system has to be implemented in conjunction with the suburbs or it won't be effective," said James Gibson, D.C. assistant administrator for planning.
A spokesman for Dalton said yesterday that the three leaders also will discuss how gasoline is allocated locally by the major oil companies. Officials in all three jurisdictions said that the Washington metropolitan area was being "short-changed" by the oil companies.
"We are concerned that Virginia, Maryland and the D.C. area are being treated in a prejudicial manner that is working unfavorably in this area," said Gene Oishi, spokesman for Hughes.
Long lines appeared again at the few service stations that were open yesterday, and highway and resort area officials reported fewer travelers over the weekend.
Baltimore tunnel police reported that the number of cars traveling through the tunnel yesterday was down more than 10 percent from the same Sunday last year. Chesapeake Bay bridge police said 5,000 to 10,000 fewer cars traveled over the bridgge yesterday compared with the same Sunday last year. Officials of both departments attributed the decline to the gasoline shortage.
Ronald Trepanier, marketing director of King's Dominion amusement park in Doswell, Va., said yesterday that the park was averaging 2-to-3 percent fewer visitors than a year ago.
Oishi, Maryland Gov. Hughes' spokesman, said yesterday that Hughes would set aside for emergencies more gasoline in July from the state's monthly allocation. In June, Hughes, like Dalton, set aside three percent of the monthly allocation for emergency situations.
"We're using up the 3 percent rather quickly," Oishi said. "In July we'll take more away [from the monthly allocation] and distribute to areas in gravest need."