The owners of a gasoline station in Takoma Park say they have brought the future to the Washington area -- gasoline sold by the liter.

Since July 19, the Citadel station on East-West Highway in Takoma Park has been charging 27.4 cents for a liter of premium, 25.5 cents for a liter of no-lead gasoline.

Confused? Charles Lamb, general manager of Citadel, says you had better learn to adjust. Litters, those basic units of volume in the metric system, are here to stay, at least in Takoma Park.

"It's the wave of the future. Everyone's going to have to go liter eventually," Lamb said yesterday. "We've always led the way."

According to the Greater Washington and Maryland Service Station Association, no other service stations in the area have converted to selling gasoline by the liter. "Half gallons, yes. But we haven't heard of anyone using liters," one staff member said yesterday.

For those unfamiliar with metric measurement, Lamb said, the station provides a placard saying that it takes 3.78 liters to make one gallon.

The placard also gives gallon prices: 96.4 cents a gallon for regular, $1.037 a gallon for premium and $1.005 a gallon for unleaded gasoline.

Lamb said Citadel, which owns 11 servrce stations in the Washington area, decided to go to liters in Takoma Park because the gallon price of gasoline was edging over the dollarmark and the pumps can register only to 99.9 cents. None of the other Citadel stations in the Washington area yet converted to liters, he said.

"We didn't use the half-gallon method because it's too difficult for people to calculate," he said.

Employes at the Tokoma Park station said many customers have a hard time figuring out exactly how much gasoline they bought.

"We're getting a terrible response. Customers can't figure out what the prices are, and when they do, they say it's too high," said one employe, who did not want to be identified.

"Customers come in here and say it's just a tricky way to push up the price," the employe said.

Until the advent of the metric system in mid-July, Citadel was charging 95.9 cents for a gallon of regular gasoline and 99.9 cents for either a gallon of unloaded or premium, Lamb said.

"Where is the trick. It's right there in black and white. We say in the station window what the liter price is and what the gallon price is," ne added. CAPTION: Picture, Takoma Park gasoline station's price-per-liter system confuses some customers. By Ken Fell The Washington Post