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Old 02-19-2007, 02:31 PM   #1
Scooby Guru
Member#: 5126
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: www.nugateway.com
Default Hybrids drive their way out of car-pool lanes

Hybrids drive their way out of car-pool lanes


THE Department of Motor Vehicles has pulled the plug on hybrid cars getting a free pass in commuter lanes.
State law allowed the DMV to issue 85,000 stickers to certain hybrid drivers on a first-come, first-serve basis, giving them permission to drive solo in the diamond lane. That number was reached, and the program has concluded. Those who have just purchased a hybrid car have lost the opportunity to zoom freely in the commuter lane, riding solo or not.

The state first got the idea in 2005 when legislation was passed to allow 75,000 hybrids to use car-pool lanes. Last year, new legislation boosted the number to 85,000. The DMV stickers, which apply to the cars and not the drivers, are good until 2010. It's unknown if lawmakers will extend the program.

Obviously, the main purpose was to introduce people to hybrid automobiles, and that definitely worked nearly 135,000 hybrids are registered in California, double the number a year ago. It's served that purpose. But we wonder how many drivers bought these cars with the main intention of capitalizing on the commuter-lane break and how much cleaner is the air today because of it? In addition to increasing the popularity of hybrids, it's clear that this program has, let's say, driven its course.

Giving free solo trips in the commuter lanes has successfully clogged up those commuter lanes that were intended to ease traffic. Also, the way stickers are allocated was flawed it was based on when new hybrid owners received their license plates in the mail. There's no guarantee when plates will arrive often, it could take as long as three months. Perhaps the DMV should've based it on when the car was purchased, making it clear if people qualified. Instead, when the current program ended, the DMV had 700 more applications than stickers. Some owners out there won't be happy campers.

Hybrid car owners already receive breaks through tax credits signed into law by President Bush in 2006, along with the benefit of higher gas mileage than nonhybrid autos. Why did we want to give away our commuter lanes?

If the state wants to continue additional breaks to new hybrid car owners, perhaps California should look at examples of what other states do. Colorado gives a tax credit of up to $4,713, Illinois as much as $4,000. For new hybrid owners, New Mexico has a one-time exemption from the motor vehicle excise tax and state sales tax.

If California wants to cut these hybrid car owners a break in the future, it can do so without directly penalizing drivers of other cars. Put the commuter stickers to rest for good.
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