I-95/395 reversible HOV lanes, located in the middle of the freeway (pic by Mariordo at Wikimedia)
For years, green-car buyers in California have enjoyed a special perk: access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes that can whiz past gridlock, even with just a single occupant.
Now, updates to the rules signed into law in October by Governor Jerry Brown will likely change the way owners and shoppers view the coveted carpool-lane stickers and how they seek to retain the coveted privilege.
In less than a decade, officials in California want to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles on the road by five-fold, to 1.5 million by the end of 2025, according to KQED.
One way to do that: extend the popular HOV-lane access program. But there’s a catch—or actually a few.
The California bill signed into law October 10 (AB 544) extends by three years the program that opens HOV lanes to owners of battery-electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles (white stickers) and plug-in hybrids (green stickers). The original program had been set to expire January, 1 2019.
Owners of qualified vehicles purchased before January 1, 2017 will have their stickers expire on January 1, 2019. For cars purchased in 2017 or 2018, owners can apply for HOV stickers valid until January 1, 2022.
For owners who purchase their new cars after January 1, 2019, approved stickers will be valid for three years and until January 1 of the fourth year. For example, a new car purchased on February 1, 2019 could have a valid HOV sticker until January 1, 2023.
The rolling expiration dates should limit the number of green cars traveling in HOV lanes and reduce crowding, according to transportation officials.
That may not be enough to address the problem, however: Metropolitan Transportation Commission officials calculated that nearly 1 in 4 HOV-lane drivers violated the rules during the morning rush hour by driving ineligible vehicles, according to KQED.
Thus far, neither state officials not law-enforcement authorities have put forth any plans for stepped-up enforcement of vehicle-eligibility rules for California’s carpool lanes.
While the new expiration dates may irk some owners, other changes to the legislation in the form of income limits could draw fire from some well-heeled buyers too.
Neither the California Clean Vehicle Rebate nor the HOV lane stickers will be available to single taxpayers making more than $150,000 in gross income.
Head-of-household filers will need to make less than $204,000 annually, or less than $300,000 for joint filers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For a complete list of eligible vehicles, click here.
Hat tips: Devroot, Shiva