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Belleville Council Votes to Ration Gasoline

To contend with widespread shortages, motorists will only be able to gas up every other day

The Belleville Township Council Thursday voted to institute gas-rationing measures not widely seen in the United States since the 1970s.

Beginning Monday, Nov. 5, Belleville gas stations  will only be allowed to distribute fuel on an “even-odd” basis. The ordinance approved by officials in an emergency session states that a motorist with a license plate whose last number is odd -- such as 1, 3 or 7, for example -- can only fill up at township gas stations on odd-numbered dates, such as the 5th, the 17th or the 23rd of the month.

The system works the same for even-numbered dates and license plates ending with even numbers, like 2 or 4. Zero -- "0" -- is considered an even number. 

The system is similar to the one used in communities across the country following gas shortages caused by the the Iranian embargo in 1979

For those walking up to gas stations seeking to fill up gas cans, similar rules are in effect, except the relevant number is the last number of the person’s address as it appears on a driver’s license or other government document.  

Belleville Township Attorney Thomas Murphy said the council held a long debate  before ultimately opting to dust off the disco-era solution. He also said that this week’s shortage differs from the one a generation ago in that more people are seeking fuel for generators and not just vehicles.

“There were disputes back then, but there weren’t as many people with generators,” he said. “I think that adds to the potential for turmoil.

Belleville distributors who violate the law may face penalties of up to 90 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The measures have been instituted due to widespread fuel shortages throughout New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy earlier this week. Because so many gas stations lost power, long lines -- in some communities stretching for a half-mile or more  --  formed at stations that were still powered up and pumping. But even at some of those service stations that still had electricity,  fuel supplies have not arrived from refineries, forcing those stations to shut down their pumps as well.

Managing the huge lines of desperate motorists has taxed police officers called upon to control traffic and to maintain order. There have already been scuffles at other gas lines in the area.

“We had to deploy police assets in significant numbers to keep calm,” Murphy said. “This takes off that extreme pressure to get gasoline.”

Belleville may be the first community hit by Sandy to attempt odd-even rationing. Murphy said he “was not aware of any other municipality” that was attempting the scheme. A spokeseman for the state Department of Law and Public Safety said late Thursday he had not heard of any other town attempting rationing but could not verfiy whether it was being tried elsewhere in the state.

The town's rationing will end when the state of emergency declared by Gov. Chris Christie is lifted, or possibly sooner if supplies are restored.

Belleville Sentinel November 01, 2012 at 10:09 PM
The efforts of the Belleville Town Council are very much appreciated. However, in regard to the even/odd license plate system, what is the rule if someone has a vanity plate that contains only letters (and no numbers)?
Paul Milo (Editor) November 01, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Good question, Sentinel. I don't know. But I'm wondering if it's such a large number of vanity plate holders to be a significant issue.
Belleville Sentinel November 01, 2012 at 10:52 PM
It's probably a very minor issue here - but for the sake of completeness and fairness, the Council should consider how to handle such vanity plates. For us Seinfeld fans, we all remember Kramer's famous vanity plate and I immediately wondered how Kramer would handle this odd/even system without epitomizing the same!
Thomas Doeffinger November 01, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Maybe they should just assign a number to each letter - A=1. B=2, and so on.
James osorio November 02, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Is 0 considered an odd or even number?
Chooch November 02, 2012 at 02:03 AM
I was going to ask the same. My husband has vanity plates. I'm ok with this new law for myself. Also, what about people fueling from other towns?
joe hughes November 02, 2012 at 02:29 AM
It's about time its a mess pay my taxes to bell can't get a gal of gas times sure changed in this town for the worst
Paul Milo (Editor) November 02, 2012 at 10:15 AM
I asked that question myself James - 0 is considered even. Sorry, should have included in the story.
Paul Milo (Editor) November 02, 2012 at 10:16 AM
Chooch, it applies to anyone fueling at a Belleville gas station, regardless of where they live.
Sharon Conte November 02, 2012 at 11:25 AM
They should go by the persons address (odd/even) if all letters on the plate
john reese November 02, 2012 at 11:39 AM
well its a great idea,there is only 1 problem most gas stations in belleville are now out of gas.so where will we get the gas?i live around washington,union and belleville aves and all the stations in this area are out.and as for the number 0 it is an even number and it is stated in the story.
Michele Spina November 02, 2012 at 09:07 PM
"The system works the same for even-numbered dates and license plates ending with even numbers, like 2 or 4. Zero -- "0" -- is considered an even number." It is in the story as my mom has 0 in hers
Rosanna Senatore November 03, 2012 at 12:10 AM
There are a lot of folks coming from all over to get gas in Belleville. This is causing the Belleville residents unable to get gas in their own town. Belleville homeowners are paying high taxes and are the ones paying the town worker's salaries. I believe we should supply the people living in our town before others.
Rosanna Senatore November 03, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Michele , you are correct 0 is considered even. :)

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