Do hybrid owners deserve access to carpool lanes and other perks?

Easy Answer: California says no.

In years past, California issued yellow stickers to about 85,000 hybrid owners allowing their solo drivers to use the state's carpool lanes (also known as HOV or High Occupancy Vehicle lanes). The state hasn't issued new stickers since 2007 when it reached its maximum. But those 85,000 hybrid drivers have been cruising along in the state's carpool lanes ever since.

No more.

The perk is scheduled to end on January 1st. Here's the legislation.

People who drive electric cars and cars that use natural gas will get to continue to use the lanes. All you Tesla drivers can relax.

The reasoning:

"As beneficial as hybrids are, by virtue of their reduced consumption of gasoline, to the state's environment and economy, it is difficult to articulate a compelling rationale for allowing their operation in HOV lanes for an additional five years. The initial impetus for granting this privilege was to incentivize their purchase. The 85,000 hybrids that are
currently stickered have indeed been purchased. As no additional stickers are available for issue, HOV lane access is no longer an incentive to purchase a new hybrid. And as the automotive industry adjusts its mix of models to meet consumer demand for higher mileage vehicles, hybrids are capturing an increasing share of the market without any need for incentives. Extending the sunset date of the program therefore simply continues to reward motorists for purchase choices they made several years ago while making more difficult the task of reducing congestion in HOV lanes."

Navigating California's highways a little faster isn't the only bonus hybrid owners have had to wave goodbye to.

Last year, the city of Los Angeles dumped free parking for Prius drivers.

What do you think? Should hybrid drivers still get perks?

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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As a car pool states that 2 people or more can ride in the lane it should be that way. For hybrids, they can car pool but should always carry two or more people. A car pool is a car pool and should follow the definition of a car pool. As like the express lanes, people who pay for the transponder that use these lanes should be the only people using these lanes and not anyone who thinks that they can use the express lanes......however I feel that charging people to use the car pool lanes could help with the cost of California'a economic problems. Just use the money for the people and not waste it like all the other money that CA wastes.

Whole program seemed strange to me. Hybrids do their best on gas mileage in city/stop and go driving. Let's get them in those carpool lanes so they can throw that benefit away. It really didn't make sense.

If you want to improve the environment you should increase the cost of gasoline. The govenment wouldn't tax it so we've let the oil companies increase the cost to spur hybrid (and more energy efficient) cars.

While I am neither a current Hybrid owner nor a resident of the state of California, you should double check all of your facts. Not all Hybrids are the same, I know because I have been researching for myself because I'm tired of the higher prices for gas. The Honda Civic Hybrids in particular get better highway mileage than in town. Granted, they get better in town mileage than my '03 Chevy Impala, but they get up to 50 or more MPG on the highway vs about 43 to 45 in town. Granted, that's not significant to most people. But in the context of your statement, and comparing to a Prius, that gets up to 55 in town and in the mid 40s on the highway, that can be a significant difference over time if you're doing more highway driving than city driving. Which, since I live in a rural community is a combination. But that's best for another discussion.

I own a Prius with the stickers and it was absolutely wonderful being able to drive in the carpool if I had long distances to drive for work, but I can't complain that they are taking away that privilege. It is completely logical that only cars with 2 or more people should use the carpool lane, that is what it's there for.

In response to Tom, I definitely do not get better gas mileage in stop and go traffic in the city. I think any car does better on the highway.

I'm a Prius owner who thinks that California's logic is correct. In addition to the fact that the HOV privileges no longer act as an incentive to buy hybrids, there are now a lot of hybrids out there, and some of them are not all that green. If the hybrid owners want to feel good about all they are doing for the environment, they should car pool!

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