Monday, February 5, 2007

Hey, On the Bright Side, You Won't Have to Slap These Ugly Stickers on Your Bumper

You just bought a Prius, or a Civic Hybrid, and you're psyched. Soon you'll be speeding down the carpool lanes, even if you're driving solo.


Oops -- if you haven't already received your "Access OK" bumper sticker, then you're out of luck. Come join the rest of us on the slow side -- the state has allocated a certain amount of carpool lane stickers to hybrid users, and those stickers are now gone, the L.A. Times reports:

In an effort to prevent carpool lanes from becoming clogged with solo hybrid drivers, state lawmakers set an initial cap of 75,000 cars that would be allowed to cruise the carpool lanes. Faced with high demand, the Legislature voted to allow 10,000 more hybrids in the lanes starting Jan. 1. Demand was so high that the state ran out of permits in four weeks.

Only the most fuel-efficient hybrids — those that average 45 miles to the gallon or more — are allowed in carpool lanes under the state program. Just three models meet those qualifications: the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic hybrid and the now-discontinued Honda Insight.

Buyers who have known about the looming cap have played a frantic game in the last month, obsessively calling the DMV to check on their applications and mailing forms in by express mail, sometimes twice, applicants said in interviews.
Since the program began in August 2005, the number of hybrids in California has increased dramatically, from 34,861 at the end of 2004 to 91,665 in March 2006, the most recent figures available. The numbers include less fuel-efficient models that didn't qualify for the carpool-sticker program.

Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View), who cosponsored a bill last year permitting the 10,000 additional stickers, said she would consider increasing the cap again.

The story doesn't mention it, but there's still a huge incentive for hybrid owners: Parking meters are free throughout the city of Los Angeles. Oh, and there's also that whole saving-the-earth thing, not to mention the whole spending-less-for-gas-because-you-get-better-mileage thing.

UPDATE: Ooh, this L.A. parking thing gets tricky. According to the LADOT, the city is planning on limiting the free parking meter ordinance to just hybrids that have a state "Access OK" sticker. So yes, it's quite possible you new hybrid owners might get screwed twice. Here's what the LADOT says:

On June 21, 2006, the Los Angeles City Council voted to extend the program providing free parking at City parking meters for hybrid vehicles through December 31, 2007; but the Council also directed the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance limiting participation in the free parking program to only those vehicles that have Clean Air Vehicle Decals issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. While the City Attorney is drafting the new ordinance, the City will continue the current program of allowing four hybrid vehicles (Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius, and the Ford Escape Hybrid) to park for free at City parking meters without being required to have a Clean Air Vehicle Decal. Once the new ordinance has been adopted by the City Council and goes into effect, only vehicles with the Clean Air Vehicle Decals will be allowed to park for free.

Anyone know what the City Attorney has decided, if anything? Stay tuned...

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