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State OKs 6 more months of hybrid carpool use

August 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
While many California drivers are stuck in traffic jams, 85,000 solo drivers in certain hybrids are given a free pass in the carpool lane during commute hours.Those expire on January 1. But a new bill passed out of the Senate will extend that privilege for six more months, much to the delight of Hybrid drivers with the carpool sticker appended to their bumper.

"When you're running late for work, and you have a meeting, they're wonderful," said Kathy Lynch, whose car dons the carpool sticker.

After the pass expires, the state will then create new stickers to start in 2012, but it will be for drivers using the next generation of green cars: plug-ins like the new Chevy Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf, which will be on the market soon.

Only 40,000 of those new stickers will be made.

"Now we've got better technology, so we incentivize a new crop of individuals to buy these particular cars that's going to help our environment even more," said state Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco.

But then those 85,000 with the original stickers, who were on the cutting edge back then, would be kicked out of the carpool lanes and would have to drive in the regular lanes with the rest of us. That's why some lawmakers voted against the new proposal.

"Putting more cars crowding into the existing space and leaving those carpool lanes open is not a good idea," said state Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, a Republican from Murrieta. "We need to be utilizing them. They cost a lot of money and they should be opened up to everybody."

With the possibility of new stickers on the way, consumers might be tempted to buy the new plugs-in at a time when some models qualify for either federal credits, state credits or both.

"The sticker is an added bonus and you also tend to look at people in the carpool lane," Lynch said. "It's almost like roadside advertising for these vehicles."

The proposal to extend the old stickers and create a new sticker program now heads to the governor's desk. If he signs it, the new stickers are good until 2015.


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