Prius carpool lane stickers – End of an era


I drive a Toyota Prius which I purchased back in 2005.  At that time, California DMV had an incentive program for low-emissions cars.  They allowed you to purchase a carpool lane access sticker which allowed you to drive in the carpool lane by yourself.  I was just moving to the mountains, but still working in Century City, so this was very appealing to me (my commute was about 100 miles each way).  Also, the $4k tax refund was nice, I must admit.

Originally, the allocation was 85,000 stickers and I got in at the tail end of that.  6 months after I bought my car, there were no more stickers available.  The stickers were supposed to expire at the end of 2010, but the CA Assembly voted 68-4 to extend the life to July 2011.

Now that the stickers have expired, my Prius is like Superman sitting on a block of kryptonite.  It has been stripped of it’s carpool lane superpowers and is now just a moderately comfortable high-MPG car.  Mine is also high-mileage as you might guess, at over 250,000 miles on the clock.

The only stickers still valid are the white ones issued for Natural Gas (CNG), plug-in hybrids (Toyota is due to release a plug-in Prius next year), fully electric cars, and hydrogen powered vehicles.  These stickers will be valid until 2015.

The LA times had an article on this entitled “For hybrid drivers, it’s now the past lane”.

Here’s some excerpts from it and my humble thoughts…

Beginning Friday, owners of hybrid cars were kicked out of carpool lanes and forced to crawl to work with the rest of the solo drivers. Though the change is lamented by hybrid owners, some carpoolers are cheering. Transportation experts say the shift could reduce traffic in carpool lanes at a time when some of the lanes are becoming more congested.

Hogwash.  I paid attention to the carpool lanes over the last month, and they were not congested in any sense.  The only time they were is when the entire freeway was backed up, and there’s not much to be done about that, unfortunately.

Sharing those lanes has never been easy. Carpoolers have long grumbled that solo drivers should not be allowed to use lanes designed for ridesharing. One common complaint: Hybrid drivers tend to drive slower than carpoolers to maximize their fuel efficiency.

LOL, probably true.  Except for me (Mr. Leadfoot)

Some guy they interviewed said: "I figure it’s cheating like, ‘Why do they get the special pass?’”

Well, it would be cheating if it wasn’t something available to everyone.  It was, and he chose not to participate.  Not my problem.

Hybrids made up about 6% of the vehicles in Los Angeles County’s carpool lanes.

Wow, six whole percent!  Clearly that points to how congested hybrids made the carpool lanes.

Allison Yoh, associate director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies, said congestion tends to be exponential, meaning that removing even a few cars can have a noticeable effect. As a result, carpoolers are likely to see smoother traffic flow.

We’d get a more noticeable effect if morons didn’t drive in the carpool lane doing 55mph with 2 miles of traffic backed up behind them.

When you are on a motorcycle, as I am from time to time, you actually get to see the culprit of these backups. You drive between lanes passing car after car until you come to the rolling roadblock with miles of empty road in front of them.  It’s tough to simply drive by them, as opposed to reaching down and slashing their tires or something.  But one can dream.

Experts have said they believe the bigger problem is simply too many cars on the road during rush hour.

Amen, brother.

Marco Ruano, chief of freeway operations for Caltrans’ District 7, which includes Los Angeles, said hybrids make up such a small percentage of the total number of cars on the freeways that their inclusion in the regular lanes is not likely to result in noticeably more congestion.

Can I get a witness? Hallelujah!

Up to 40,000 new-generation clean-running vehicles  primarily plug-in hybrids, like the new plug-in Prius will receive carpool stickers under a new program beginning in 2012. Fully electric cars and vehicles that run on compressed natural gas will also retain their rights to the carpool lane.

The old program was 85,000 hybrid stickers allocated.  Not exactly a direct replacement program.

A key reason why hybrids were kicked out of the lanes was to prevent further congestion as the new plug-in cars merged in.

Hmm – maybe. But then the hybrid cars in use now aren’t that old and in this economy I don’t see a massive flood of people wanting to upgrade their hybrid to the very latest model year.  Also, if the existing 85,000 hybrids make up 6% of the traffic, then that means there are about 1,141,667 cars using the carpool lanes.  Adding 40,000 more cars brings the hybrid user percentage to a whopping 8.6%.  Holy cow! it would be a complete parking lot!  Or… maybe it wouldn’t make really any difference at all.  I think that’s more like it.

Another quote they had: "A lot of people presumably bought the car in order to have that reward," 

A big Amen, brother.

I try to take advantage of tax deductions too.  Does that make me a bad person?

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One comment on “Prius carpool lane stickers – End of an era

  1. Great rant as always Tim.  As you know I'm an CA ex-pat, currently visiting LA.  I had forgotten what thick muck you people call air, much less the unpleasant heat.  I can't wait to get the hell out of town (again).  BTW, can someone give LA a giant douche?  This place is in SERIOUS need of a good washing.

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