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City Looks to Extend Parking Benefit for Hybrids

California_Hybrid_HOV_Lane_Sticker.jpg

At the request of the City Council, the City Attorney's office has prepared a resolution extending the city's free parking for hybrid vehicles with "Access OK" stickers until 2011. The free parking program was set to expire this year.

For those of you living under a rock, in 2005 Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a law allowing owners of certain low-emission hybrids to purchase "Access OK" stickers. These stickers allowed single-passenger hybrid drivers to use HOV Lanes. The program was so popular that the state had to stop issuing stickers in early 2006. In January of 2007, the state issued another 10,000 stickers. In total 85,000 hybrid owners had taken advantage of the "green loophole" to use HOV lanes. In support of the program, the City of Los Angeles allows cars bearing the stickers to park for free at metered spaces.

While, the city's heart is in the right place, after all, who doesn't want to support hybrid vehicles; the logic of extending a program that benefits the owner of a 2001 Toyota Prius and not the owner of a 2008 Toyota Prius isn't about encouraging people to buy hybrids. It's about rewarding people who already own hybrids. After all, continuing this program isn't going to encourage someone to buy a new car if they can't buy one of the access passes.

Rewarding people with free parking does come at a price. Most obviously, there's the $116,000 of annual revenuethe city will lose. That may not seem like a lot of money, but it's certainly enough over the next three years to paint several miles of new bike lanes.

Second, there's always a cost to the community when free parking is offered in the form of increased car travel in their area. UCLA Professor Donald Shoup has repeatedly demonstratedthat free parking leads to more people cruising for parking spaces adding an average of half a mile per car trip to an area. Over the course of time, that extra half mile adds a lot of wear and tear to local roads and congestion to local streets.

The City Council Transportation Committee will vote on this resolution tomorrow. A vote of the full council is needed before the resolution becomes law.

Photo: Clean MPG

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