“Crisis” Mode AAA Urges Panicked Drivers to Take Transit

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Drivers, elected officials and the Daily News are freaking out as city gas prices hit $4 a gallon. The hysteria has reached such a pitch that AAA New York is doing the unthinkable, advising drivers to reduce consumption.

It costs so much to fuel up that the American Automobile Association is urging its members to leave their cars at home and take public transportation.

"We are in the midst of a crisis," AAA's New York spokesman Robert Sinclair declared. "People have to be very discreet in their use of motor vehicles. If you can, use public transport."

Not that drivers need AAA to tell them what to do. Area demand has dropped by 3 percent as average gas prices in New York state have reached a record high $3.66 a gallon, according to the News.

Naturally, any retailer charging a few cents more faces accusations of gouging. 

"I am outraged," said City Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), who yesterday saw two stations near his Tremont Ave. office charging $3.99 a gallon. "They're on a highway and obviously think they have people captive to that price."

Vacca's outrage won't be tamped by news from Washington, where Congress was to hear testimony yesterday from the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. After 20 months of study, the commission has issued a report suggesting that the federal gasoline tax be raised to 40 cents per gallon, up from the current 18.4 cents, over five years. Other recommendations include tolls and -- you guessed it -- congestion pricing.

Aside from shifting more of the burden for transportation funding to motorists, the one thing all of these measures have in common is unpopularity among electeds. Reports CNN:

Any increase [in the gas tax] would be a surprise. The gas tax has held steady for about 15 years, and lawmakers have been quick to say they expect no big changes.

UPDATE: Added to the top of the Daily News story:

Have you seen a gas station charging $4 or more per gallon? Let us know. E-mail The Daily News at news@nydailynews.com

What will tomorrow's headline be?

Photo: New York Daily News