TOP STORY | Wally Kennedy: Drive-thru Convenience consumes 100,000 gallons of gas on Range Line

Published January 27, 2009 08:56 am

Not long ago, I wrote about the convenience of drive-through windows. It was specifically in regard to the drive-through at Macadoodles at 17th Street and Range Line Road.

I said you could pick up some spirits there and then drive through interconnecting parking lots to the drive-through windows at Backyard Burgers or Wendy’s. Booze and burgers — sounds like a great combination to me. And so convenient. You wouldn’t have to leave your car to get two of life’s finer necessities. Why, you could wear your pajamas or a bathrobe to both places and no one would be the wiser.

Boy, did I set myself up for a heaping dose of criticism from a reader. My enthusiasm for drive-through windows was tempered by some eye-opening facts that should give us pause to think about the true cost of convenience.

After telling me that she enjoyed this column, the reader then wrote: “In today’s column about the opening of Macadoodles, you promote the use of their drive-through window, as well as the drive-through windows at adjacent restaurants. With so many environmental and economical issues linked to gasoline consumption, the use of drive-through facilities should be discouraged rather than encouraged.”

Oops. And then the other shoe — or should I say boot — fell.

The reader cited a study published in the Transportation Research Record called “Energy Analysis and Alternative Fuels and Vehicles.” It found that an average fast-food restaurant with 2,000 vehicles using the drive-through each week causes the use of more than 57 gallons of gas per week, or more than 2,960 gallons per year.

An average two-lane bank drive-through causes the use of more than 62 gallons of gas per week, or more than 3,200 gallons per year, the study said.

She wrote: “When one extrapolates this data to include the vast number of drive-through windows across our country, it is clear that substantial amounts of extra fuel are consumed and added pollutants released. As consumers, we can choose to park our cars and go inside rather than idling along in drive-through lines. Most of us are physically able to do this, and, in fact, would benefit from the extra steps involved.”

You can’t argue with that. It’s clear that an idling engine gets the worst possible gas mileage — zero miles per gallon. Case closed.

But that got me to thinking. Just how many drive-through windows are there on Range Line Road? This would require the imperfect but reliable science of a windshield survey. I counted 22 drive-through windows between 44th Street and Seventh Street, and 12 between Seventh Street and MacArthur Drive in Webb City, the northernmost end of Range Line. This did not include banks.

So, 34 drive-through windows times 2,960 gallons equals about 100,640 gallons of gasoline idled away each year on Range Line. That’s enough to fill 11 tanker trucks.

The windshield survey was so exhausting that I had to go through the drive-through at McDonald’s to get a soda to quench my thirst. There was no one in line at the time. It took less than two minutes, so my idling time was very limited. I am not a wanton idler.

So here are some things to think about when you use a drive-through window. If there’s a line at the window, avoid it unless you want to waste your money and time. If you have to wait in one spot for more than 10 seconds, turn off your car. Idling for 10 seconds or more uses more fuel than restarting your engine.

There’s a lot more to this idling thing than meets the eye. I intend to revisit this subject in the future. In the meantime, do something good for yourself and the country. Don’t be an idler.


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