For a few hours on Eastern Ave., it was 1998 all over again.
That’s the last time the price of gasoline was as low as 50 cents a litre. And that’s what it cost Monday at Eastern Auto, just east of Leslie St.
The sale — part of a promotion by Toronto travel company FlightNetwork.com — led to organized chaos in the area. Hundreds of motorists lined up for hours hoping to fuel up on the cheap. Off-duty police officers were on hand to keep things moving and stop multiple attempts to sneakily cut the line of cars, which snaked for more than a kilometre up Leslie St. and down Eastern Ave.
Motorists started lining up around 5 a.m. for the 8 a.m. start, police said. The limit was 50 litres per vehicle, meaning most drivers saved about $42. Gas currently costs $1.35 per litre in the GTA, according to tomorrowsgaspricetoday.com.
“People are desperate,” said Dan McTeague, the website’s founder and a former member of Parliament. “They’ve hit a tipping point.”
According to McTeague, 95 per cent of respondents to a poll on his website said current energy prices affect their discretionary spending in other areas.
“That’s why people are prepared to wait an hour or two in line.”
Karan Jassal, 20, drove his Pontiac minivan 45 minutes from Brampton, then waited patiently for hours.
“I was low on gas anyway,” he said. “I didn’t mind the drive.”
The original plan was to end the deal at 11 a.m. or when 10,000 litres had been sold, whichever came first. But organizers waived the 11 a.m. deadline and sold the full 10,000 litres to an estimated 300 motorists.
“It’s the next closest thing to free money,” said Peter Yeung, 46, who waited 2½ hours to fill his 1987 Jaguar XJS (he confessed it’s “a bit of a gas guzzler”).
Most motorists waited patiently in line, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. There were enough honking horns that the proceedings sounded like regular downtown Toronto traffic.
One woman bypassed the line and drove straight into the gas station, police said.
“Her issue was she had a doctor’s appointment and needed gas right away,” said a constable. “We had to send her to the back of the line.”
One man didn’t budge his SUV for a few minutes when police ordered him out of line, so traffic was redirected around his stationary vehicle. And several drivers were furious around noon when they claimed a woman driving a Mazda sedan cut in. She was sent away.
“Everybody wants a deal, right? But you’ve got to wait your turn,” said Jennifer Gray, 37, who said she waited 2½ hours to fill up after dropping her two children off at school.
Organizers capped the line at 11:15 a.m. to avoid having people wait for gas without receiving it. The last man to sneak in before the cut was André Diangana, 38, who arrived with his tank below empty and ran out of gas while idling in line. Staff brought a jerry can of gasoline to his car so he could make it to the station.
Diangana, 38, waited for more than two hours and was thrilled to be the last person to receive cheap gas.
“I need the gas. To save 65 per cent on gas right now, that’s a big blessing.”