Carpool (HOV) Lanes

With the signing of the federal transportation bill by Pres. George Bush in Aug. 2005, states may issue stickers to owners of hybrid vehicles, allowing them to drive solo in High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

This culminates a year-long legislative struggle to give hybrid drivers access to carpool lanes. We have now entered the implementation phase, as hybrid owners navigate the unique administrative processes of each state.

Arizona (Update May 2008)

After issuing 10,000 HOV tags for hybrid vehicles since early last year, Arizona is halting the program for any new applicants until the impact can be assessed. The Arizona Department of Transportation and Gov. Janet Napolitano announced in February 2007 that three hybrid models—the Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Toyota Prius—would bepermitted to use car pool lanes on freeways in Arizona. "We’re using a variety of strategies to begin to clear the air in Arizona," Napolitano said in a statement. "Drivers who make the commitment to clean air and energy efficiency will get an easier commute." A special license plate can be ordered online at www.servicearizona.com or by calling (602) 255-0072. Updated 2008.

California (Update July 2010)

The Department of Motor Vehicles is no longer accepting applications from drivers who own a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic or older Honda Insight hybrids for carpool stickers. State law allowed the DMV to issue 85,000 stickers to certain hybrid drivers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Spokesman Steve Haskins said that his agency had 700 applications over that level and no longer wanted motorists to send in an application. "We have no more stickers available to issue and any applications sent to DMV will likely not be successfully processed,” Haskins said. "Any unprocessed applications and checks will be returned as soon as the last of the stickers are mailed to customers."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1500 on July 7, 2010,, providing a perk that allows drivers of pure electric vehicles and cars running on compressed natural gas to drive solo in California carpool lanes until Jan. 1, 2015. But the privilege was not extended to conventional hybrids. There is still a chance that SB 535 could pass, pushing the deadline for hybrids to July 1, 2011.

Colorado (Update May 2008)

Hybrid drivers in Colorado will soon be able to drive solo in carpool lanes. The state will issue 2,000 special permits through a lottery system. Applications are being accepted through May 31, 2008. All hybrid vehicles will be eligible.

Florida

Hybrid vehicles that are certified and labeled in accordance with federal regulations may be driven in HOV lanes at any time, regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle. The vehicle must have a decal issued by the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles, obtained for a $5 fee, which must be renewed annually. More information available from the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles at dmv@hsmv.state.fl.us or (850) 922-9000.

New Jersey

Governor Jon S. Corzine and The New Jersey Turnpike Authority announced on April 27, 2006 that the New Jersey Turnpike Authority will be allowing Hybrid vehicles to travel in the Turnpike’s High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. HOV lanes are located on the Turnpike north- and south-bound between Interchange 11 in Woodbridge and Interchange 14 in Newark and operate on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. northbound and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. southbound. Vehicles eligible for the exemption include the Ford Escape Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, and Lexus RX 400h. More information is available on the New Jersey Turnpike website http://www.state.nj.us/turnpike/.

New York

On March 1, 2006, the Long Island Expressway’s HOV lanes’ occupancy requirement will be waived for qualifying passenger vehicles meeting strict emissions standards, and having a highway fuel economy average of at least 45 miles per gallon. Registered owners of eligible vehicles can apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles to participate in the Clean Pass initiative. Applications will be taken over the phone, by calling the State Department of Motor Vehicles toll free (518) 486-9786, Option 7. Upon application approval, DMV will mail stickers with instructions to registered vehicle owners.

Tennessee

Hybrid vehicles are permitted in HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants.

Utah

Vehicles with clean fuel group license plates are authorized to travel in HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants. The clean fuel plate may be purchased for $15 from any Motor Vehicle Division office by presenting a clean special fuel certificate. This incentive expires December 31, 2010, as extended by 2005 House Bill 96. For more information, please contact the Utah State Tax Commission’s Motor Vehicle Division at (800) DMV-UTAH or (801) 297-7780, or visit the Web site at dmv.utah.gov/licensespecialplates.html.

Virginia (Update Feb. 2008)

Vehicles registered for clean fuel license plates on or after July 1, 2006 will not be exempt from the HOV-3 requirement on the I-95/395 HOV lanes from 6 to 9 a.m. or from 3:30 to 6 p.m. However, they will be permitted to use all other HOV lanes in Virginia during HOV hours, including I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road in Northern Virginia. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has created a new clean special fuel license plate for hybrid vehicles registered after July 1, 2006. Vehicle owners with clean special fuel license plates registered before July 1, 2006 may renew or transfer their plates to a newly purchased qualifying vehicle. Check with state officials for list of qualifying hybrids.