Published Tuesday, February 1, 2005, by the Associated Press
Hybrids could gain access to car pool lanes
Controversial proposition opposed by some in auto industry
By Erica Werner
A California law allowing hybrid cars into car pool lanes
without passengers could take effect under legislation being
introduced in the House and Senate.
The law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September has stalled
because federal rules allow only cars carrying one or more passengers
onto car pool lanes. There are exceptions for electric and
alternative-fuel vehicles, but not for hybrid cars like the Toyota
Prius, which are powered by a gas engine in combination with an
Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks,
scheduled a press conference today to announce legislation that would
let states make their own rules about cars in high occupancy vehicle
lanes. Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce similar legislation
in the Senate this week or next.
"It only makes sense for states to be able to encourage drivers to
consume less gas by the means they think is best, in this case by
letting drivers of high-mileage hybrid vehicles use HOV lanes,"
Feinstein said in a statement Monday.
California's law is opposed by some in the auto industry because it
applies only to vehicles that get at least 45 miles per gallon.
Currently only the Prius and hybrids made by Honda get that kind of
mileage, while hybrids made by Ford and others wouldn't be allowed.
"We think all advanced-technology vehicles should be allowed to use
HOV lanes," said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of
Automobile Manufacturers. "The government shouldn't pick winners and
losers when it comes to encouraging consumers to buy more
Sherman and Issa introduced similar legislation during the last
congressional session that didn't make it through Congress. But there
is support for their measure. Both the House and the Senate agreed to
a provision allowing hybrids onto car pool lanes as part of a
transportation bill that passed both chambers last year but never made
it to President Bush's desk.
The Federal Highway Administration said in a statement that it
supports proposals to "allow hybrids to use HOV lanes provided they
remain an attractive alternative to regular, non-HOV lanes."
The Highway Administration has raised concerns about Virginia, where
all hybrids, regardless of mileage, have been allowed in car pool
lanes since 2000. Virginia implemented its law despite the conflict
with federal law, and federal officials agreed to leave the program in
place while the issue worked its way through Congress.
But recently, sales of hybrids have skyrocketed in Virginia, and there
are now so many that motorists are complaining car pool lanes are as
congested as every other lane, according to the Virginia Department of
California's law requires drivers of hybrids to obtain special decals
from the Department of Motor Vehicles and sets a limit of 75,000
decals. The law also sunsets after three years, and provides for
periodic review by California transportation officials, ensuring that
Virginia's problems won't be replicated in California, said
Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, author of the legislation.
[BATN believes this just as much as when MTC and Caltrans said new HOV
lanes wouldn't be converted to mixed-flow, and just as much as when
MTC and Caltrans said that Bay Bridge east span replacement was more
cost-effective than retrofit at only $1 billion, and just as much as
when MTC and BART said 69,000 daily riders would ride the Millbrae
extension, and just as much as ... ]
"We have some very careful protections in our bill that give authority
to Caltrans to look carefully at lane capacity," Pavley said.
Currently, there are about 20,000 hybrid cars owned in California, she