L.A. Reconsiders Free Parking for Hybrids

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved a measure to extend free parking to hybrid drivers until 2011. This week, they halted those plans and decided to send the issue back to committee.

This news follows last month’s move by Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty to eliminate tax breaks for owners of hybrid vehicles unless those hybrids get better than 40 mpg. During an economic downturn, and with many municipalities facing a budget crunch, local government agencies are evaluating how to create or revise effective incentives for fuel-efficient cars.

According to L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the hybrid perk costs the city about $46,000 per year. Los Angeles Department of Transportation officials puts that number at $116,000. Even using the higher figure, eliminating free parking for hybrids will hardly make up for the city’s budget shortfall of approximately $500 million this year.

But the money is not the issue. It’s more about government searching for the right personal transportation incentives—in an era when gas prices, car markets and vehicle technologies are rapidly shifting. “This was a great incentive when we first did it,” said Rosendahl, speaking to City News Service. “But hybrids don’t need assistance from us. They already are getting a benefit from the savings they get by not having to buy $4-a-gallon gas.”

In addition, several of the latest hybrids to be introduced are large SUVs, with fuel economy numbers in the low 20s. Under the plan recently approved by the council, free parking is only granted to vehicles with state-issued Clean Air Vehicle decals—and those were made available only to hybrids rated at 45 mpg or higher.

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  • uktiger

    Still free in Albuquerque!

  • Dee

    We Prius owners still have to buy $4/gal. gas — just not nearly as often as most other drivers. Wonder how much L.A. would save over the next 5 years if all the city-owned vehicles were hybrids…

  • Dom

    I say quit singling out hybrids for special treatment. It’s not hybrids we want to push per say, but greater fuel economy, and hybrids are just one method of achieving this. The incentive should be for any vehicle that meets or exceeds a certain rating, say 35mpg average. This would then include a lot of smaller cars, and various alternate powertrains, hybrid and diesel included.

  • mdensch

    I believe all major cities offer free parking for those who use truly carbon-neutral forms of transportation: bicycles and foot traffic.

  • RandalH

    I’m slightly confused. Wouldn’t it be better to make sure the SUVs get parked immediately and let the less-c02-producing hybrids run around looking for spaces? Or is this just one of those meaningless gestures that some people are fond of?

  • Anonymous

    No. The whole point is to deter people from buying less gas-efficient autos. Why should you be “rewarded” with easier parking for choosing to buy a larger vehicle that consumes more gas?

  • Alan E. Willis

    On February 10, 2009, the Los Angeles City Council voted to end the free metered parking program for alternative fuel vehicles begun in 2002. The City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) will begin citing alternative fuel vehicles parked at expired parking meters starting March 1, 2009. For more details, go to http://ladot.lacity.org/tf_Clean_Air_Vehicles.htm

  • Erina Kwon

    What!!! That’s so messed up. I didn’t hear any press releases or news saying that the LADOT was ending the free metered parking program. Then I received a ticket on my Prius on March 2 for $48 and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I’m pissed. I’m still going to contest the ticket. They LADOT should give notice before they end these programs and not just inform the drivers by placing a big fat ticket on their window.

  • Ben Shelfer

    I also got a ticket on April 9th. Not cool, the city should have issued some kind of warning ticket.