City Considering Free Parking for Zero Emission Vehicles

10_16_09_hybrid.jpgOnly the more rare white stickers would get the free parking benefit.

Some ideas just refuse to die.  Less than a year after the City of Los Angeles moved to end it’s free-meter parking for hybrids program, a new proposal to allow only the highest tech and cleanest cars to park for free has resurfaced.  The Council resolution asking LADOT to study the program was introduced by Council President Eric Garcetti and sponsored by Downtown Council Woman Eric Garcetti and "Tom LaBonge for Bill Rosendahl."  Despite the presence of LaBonge and Rosendahl as sponsors of the legislation, they led Transportation Committee in expressing concerns with the newest free-parking for expensive, high-tech, cars scheme.

Garcetti’s resolution would apply to many less vehicles than the program that was scrapped earlier this year.  Instead of all hybrids that qualified for the state’s HOV exemption sticker, only the cleanest cars would qualify.  Only electric and zero-emission vehicles would qualify, cars which get a white sticker, pictured above, from the state.  While the state no longer hands out the more ubiquitous yellow stickers to fuel-efficient hybrids, it is still handing out the white stickers to those that can afford it.

One of the main objections that Council Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl had with the old free-parking plan when he single-handidly stood up to unanimous opposition on the Council and eventually succeeded in ending that program; was that the program was not encouraging people to buy hybrids but rewarding them for doing so.  Because there were no more yellow stickers being handed out, the program wasn’t providing an incentive for people to buy hybrid cars.  This argument resonated with the Council and the program was halted.

While that argument won’t have the same strength this time, there are still plenty of reasons to not give away parking to zero emission vehicles as an incentive for people to buy them.  While there are plenty of economic reasons and transportation reasons to not give away parking.

First, the economic ones.  While the city doesn’t yet know how much revenue they would lose if the program went forward, we do know that there would be some loss.  Conversely, we have no idea if the program would lead to one more zero-emission vehicle being purchased.  As the State Senate and Assembly begin debate on whether to renew the "Access Ok" program due to expire in 2011, Caltrans has admitted there is no way to track whether or not even one vehicle has been purchased as a result of their giveaway.  When asked, Amir Sedadi, representing LADOT, couldn’t give a firm answer as to how many cars had been purchased as a result of the city’s parking giveaway.

This argument had the most traction with the Councilmen present.  Councilman LaBonge, who is trying to reduce the parking meter hours for business areas in his district, expressed concern that this program would require higher rates for other drivers.  When reminded, Councilman Rosendahl remembered his quote to the Daily News last January that:

there’s plenty of other great benefits to having a clean-fuel car. 
With the city budget in the shape it’s in, we can’t afford to leave any
‘gold in the gutter.’

From a transportation angle, such a proposal would also add Vehicle Miles Traveled (V.M.T.) to metered areas.  As Donald Shoup has taught, and Santa Monica has learned, when you give away parking you reduce the chance that people will pay for it elsewhere.  In other words, cars will cruise for spaces adding an average of a mile to each trip taken to a metered area by a white-stickered car.

Joe Linton raised a different concern at the hearing, quoting an old riddle.  "When does a Prius and a hummer have the same carbon footprint?  When they’re parked."  Linton’s point was that a parking space has a carbon footpring and environmental cost by itself and giving them away in the name of clean air is a bit of an oxymoronic idea.

I should note that the LADOT was officially "in favor of such a program" but Sedadi didn’t seem very enthusiastic about the program.  Several times he dodged a question from Councilman LaBonge about "what he would do," instead insisting he was happy to do whatever the Council wanted.

In the end, the LADOT was tasked with reporting back to the council about the costs and benefits of the plan at an unspecified date in the future.  The Transportation Committee seemed happy to wait to see if the state re-programs their "Access Ok" program before moving forward.  But waiting for the state might not be the best way to go.  Even if they do re-up the program, the lobbyists pushing for its extension are lobbyists for the auto-industry not environmental groups according to a report from the Sacramento Bee.

  • For a city that seems incapable of proving adequate bicycle parking, seems odd to me to be giving hybrids with far more carbon foot print such a financial incentive. It’s not about being green, it’s about sounding green while maintaining the staus quo as much as possible.

  • The only Zero Emission Vehicle is a bike and a human and we know how the city feels about humans hanging out in parking spaces. I don’t mean the clean art school ones, but the not so clean ones that live on the sidewalk 24 hours a day.


  • D – I am glad you caught and covered this one. I was surprised at how high the price tag was… two to three hundred thousand dollars in lost parking revenue (per the LADOT spokesperson at the meeting – but he didn’t specify a time frame on that number.)

    Giving away any public parking for free would not a smart choice for a city facing a budget deficit. Nor is it good for commerce, walkability, clean air, clean water, public health…

  • DJB

    Some subsidies for electric vehicles are necessary in my view, if we’re serious about lowering our GHG emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. However, giving away parking isn’t the way to do it. We should be taxing carbon and funneling some of the cash into subsidies for electric cars and infrastructure (and even cleaner modes). Of course, that goes beyond what a city can effectively do. (I’m looking at you, Democrat-controlled Congress).

    Also, I’m disappointed to hear about LaBonge proposing a reduction in meter hours. That would be a disaster in K-Town. It’s better to pay and find a spot than circle around vainly, adding to traffic and air pollution. “Free parking is a fertility drug for cars”.

  • So what they’re really proposing is to give a subsidy to the people who can afford the high price tag of a fully electric vehicle, and forcing all the people who can’t afford to buy a new car — gas or electric — to pick up the tab.

    Sheer genius.

    Electric car owners already save the $30 to $50 they don’t have to spend to fill up their tank. Does anyone really think that the extra few bucks they’ll save on parking will convince someone to drop a 100 grand on a new Tesla?

    I hate to poop on the Council’s cornflakes, but this has got to be one of the most asinine ideas they’ve ever come up with — and that’s saying a lot.

  • LAofAnaheim

    Agreed with bikinginla. You already have a benefit from buying a Zero Emissions Vehicle. Why should the City cofer more money for your benefit? Heck, the City should give me a benefit that I walk to work instead of driving. But, my benefit is less hassle, gas, parking worries, maintenance, etc…, but still, shouldn’t I get more? Good gawd…

  • This is a great idea!

    You see, the city spends the AQMD license fee money it gets to pay for “clean air” fleet vehicles for city staff to use. Now, no staffer has to worry about every paying for parking again when they’re using the city’s cars!

  • iDevin

    bikinginla is misinformed about the white stickers and this incentive “stealing from the poor to provide for the rich”. This mentality is frustrating, because it usually has nothing to do with the poor but more to do with “I ride a bike/walk/take transit and I want a subsidy!” I take transit and walk whenever I can, and I also know that transit is already heavily subsidized.

    While I strongly support electric vehicles, the cost of getting a vehicle with the white stickers is lower than you think. My girlfriend just purchased an used Honda Civic GX last weekend for $6,500. The GX is a natural gas powered vehicle which came with the white stickers.

  • iDevin, I think you misunderstood. My comment was about free parking for zero emission vehicles; it had nothing to do with “white stickers” — by which I believe you mean the permits that allow a low-emissions vehicle to use the carpool lane on a freeway, and which would have nothing to do with this proposal.

    While I fully support anyone’s transition from a high-emission to a low or zero emission vehicle, your girlfriend’s Honda not qualify as zero emission vehicle.

  • Ah yes the “everyman” car driver – with access to capital and credit. I love this canard.

    iDevin, have you considered the poor who (gasp!) cannot afford a car or choose to go without one save money? It is a preposterous idea, I know.

    You know what, let’s go back to ignoring them and focusing on inane technologies that do not address the fundamental problems with out over-consumptive society. “Clean cars” for everyone!

  • Okay, my mistake – until I re-read this article, I was unaware of the difference between a white and yellow sticker. If the state says a fossil fuel burning Honda is a zero emissions vehicle, who am I to argue.

  • DJB

    Just to play devil’s advocate here, it’s not realistic to expect that GHG emissions will be brought under control only by changing the transportation modes that people use. Changing modes is a really important, neglected part of the solution, but it is, in the end, only a part of the solution.

    Even if everybody in America used alternative modes at the rate of people in NYC, a city which is far more advanced on that than any other in this country, it wouldn’t be enough (although it would certainly help).

    Electric cars / plug-in hybrids at the moment are too expensive and unavailable to be mainstream and that’s actually a problem. Subsidies at a higher level of government than a city (combined w/ some good ol’ fashined carbon taxation) are needed to address this problem or we’ll all be making a mode change to boat.

    Just as a city depends on multiple transportation modes, the solution to climate change will depend on a multitude of greening strategies, some of which must involve cars.

  • bikinginla: I don’t necessarily agree with all CNG vehicles getting white stickers either and I certainly don’t think hybrids deserve stickers of any kind. The Civic is the only CNG vehicle that might deserve stickers, and even that’s a stretch. They hand them out to any vehicle with CNG which includes gas guzzling V8 pickup trucks, full-size vans, Crown Victorias, and Camrys. And in the interest of full dislosure, she is coming from a WVO vehicle that was totaled from being hit head on by a speeding SUV driver in a parking garage. By comparison the Civic could be argued to be a step backwards in terms of emissions, but we couldn’t find anything reasonably safe that could be converted to WVO in our price range so this was the next best thing.

    ubrayj02: I do consider the poor who don’t own a vehicle, or those who choose not to. You, however, seem to ONLY consider those people. They are in the minority, and while I’m all for people ditching their cars and for making multi-modal streets the standard (otherwise I wouldn’t be on this site, would I?) we don’t yet have adequate infrastructure to accommodate that. Until then we must do whatever we can to reduce the impact of the car driving masses. Getting them to opt for a cleaner car, even if it’s not the cleanest car or even public transit, is an overall good thing for everybody.

    DJB: Thanks. This is essentially my point, you just made it more eloquently.

  • Low emission vehicles are expected to witness good growth as they are being accepted across the globe. Currently, low emission market is dominated by Full Hybrid Electric Vehicles (FHEVs) and expected to remain as market leader during the forecasted period. The market of North America is expected to be the biggest one for FHEVs. However, our research says that market for PHEVs and BEVs will develop at a faster rate due to governments’ initiatives to develop charging infrastructure in battery technology. The governments of Europe and China are promoting BEVs due to presence of competitive advantages over the other countries. China can shift to electric vehicle propulsion technology faster than its counterparts due to its ability to heavily invest in its development. Europe is already well equipped when it comes to charging infrastructure for EVs.

    The most widely used batteries for Zero Emission Vehicle Report are lead-acid batteries, Nickel-Cadmium batteries (NiCad), metal hydride batteries (NimH), and lithium ion batteries. Till date, the mass produced FHEV cars have been powered by nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries. However, there are certain noticeable rapid shifts in consumption pattern of batteries used for HEVs. Due to high energy density of lithium ion battery, loads of FHEV manufacturers such as Honda Motors (Japan) and Ford Motors (Germany) will be switching over to the lithium ion battery for FHEV. As an outcome, lithium ion battery is expected to capture the lion’s share in automotive battery market by 2017.


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