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GOVERNOR SIGNS CARPOOL BILL FOR HYBRIDS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Sep 23, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The 2005 Honda Insight is one of three cars that qualify under the new bill.

GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL ALLOWING HYBRIDS INTO CARPOOL LANES

Rebuffing lobbying by the chairman of the Ford Motor Co., Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill today that will let thousands of single-occupant hybrid vehicles to carpool lanes, which supporters hope will prompt more consumers to buy the fuel-efficient, low-emission cars, the Associated Press reports. "This bill is great for California," said the measure's author, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. "It eases our commutes. It saves us money at the pump, reduces our dependency on foreign oil and cleans our air at the same time." The bill allows up to 75,000 hybrids to obtain decals from the state to use carpool lanes without having to have the minimum number of two or three occupants. Certain other advanced-technology vehicles could also qualify for the program. To obtain the decals, the vehicles will have to get at least 45 miles per gallon and meet tough emission standards. The new law is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2005, but it also needs federal approval to be implemented because federal funds help pay for carpool lanes. A bill pending in Congress would grant that approval. In the alternative, the U.S. Department of Transportation can grant a waiver to the state. California has requested a waiver, but the DOT has, to date, declined to act on the request. The DOT has granted a limited waiver to the state of Virginia. Pavley's legislation will expire in 2008 unless extended by lawmakers. Opponents complained that the legislation would lead to congested carpool lanes and undercut the purpose of the lanes, which is to reduce overall traffic. The bill requires the state Transportation Department to suspend hybrid access to any of the 1,112 miles of carpool lanes in California that become overcrowded. The bill was supported by state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who could be Schwarzenegger's Democratic opponent in 2006 if the governor runs for re-election, and Schwarzenegger's Environmental Protection secretary, Terry Tamminen. It was opposed by Bill Ford, chairman of Ford Motor Co., who wrote Schwarzenegger a letter urging him to veto the bill. Ford called the legislation a "buy Japanese bill" that would primarily benefit owners of the Toyota Prius. The Prius and the Honda Insight and Civic hybrids qualify for the decals, but Ford has no vehicle that qualifies. Its new Escape hybrid is expected to get about 35 mpg. Pavley said Toyota lobbyists had no influence in how the bill was written and had pushed unsuccessfully for a lower gasoline mileage threshold to qualify for the decals. California already allows battery- and natural-gas-powered vehicles and motorcycles to use carpool lanes without meeting the occupancy requirements.

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