Friday 4 November 2011

LA considers removing green car exemption from HOV and HOT lanes

For some years electric and certain alternative fueled vehicles have been allowed to use HOV lanes in LA with only one occupant. The obvious reason was to promote more environmentally friendly vehicles. However, the LA Times reports of plans that two of the busiest HOV lanes are to remove this exemption once they get converted to HOT lanes. The HOT lanes will only be untolled for buses and high occupancy vehicles. Low emission vehicles will have to pay the toll, like any other single occupancy vehicles.

I wrote some months ago (including a map) of the LA HOT lane trial, which could be the first step towards a city wide network of such lanes.

The report states that Stephanie Wiggins of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said: that on the southbound 110 during afternoon rush hour, hybrids and natural gas vehicles accounted for almost 1 in 5 vehicles in the carpool lane.

In other words, 20% of lane use is "green" vehicles.  If the lanes are meant to be free flowing and to encourage car sharing, they can't also support incentives to own green vehicles.  Too many objectives can end up with conflicts.

Obviously, this will upset owners of such vehicles.  However, their cause is not helped by what was reportedly said by John Boesel, chief executive of Calstart, "a clean-transportation technology trade group in Pasadena".  He claimed, oddly, that:

In London, which has pioneered such "congestion pricing" efforts, drivers of clean-fuel vehicles pay nothing or deeply discounted rates to use carpool lanes, and that is driving the purchase of electric and other clean fuel vehicles in that city,

Firstly, London is not the pioneer, it was Singapore.  Secondly, London has no carpool lanes.  Thirdly, the congestion charge does have a 100% exemption for the lowest emission vehicles, but this no longer includes older-generation hybrids.  It would be incorrect to claim this drives the purchase of such vehicles, as the other incentives include zero vehicle excise duty, free parking and the very high price of fuel in the UK.   Such measures may be worthy of consideration in California.

Stockholm by contrast, is phasing out exemptions for "green vehicles" from its congestion charge.

The interest in promoting environmentally friendly vehicles is understandable, and such vehicles already have a major gain by not paying fuel taxes.  It is conceivable that such vehicles could have discounts on HOT lanes, but it makes sense to not have three classes of vehicles that gain access - HOVs, those who pay tolls and those that are "environmentally friendly".  It makes enforcement expensive and complex, and so HOT lanes should be developed with the intention of relieving congestion, and let policies be developed separately to incentivise environmentally friendly vehicles.  

1 comment:

  1. Obviously, Ms. Wiggins is using old information to spin the desire of MTA to maximize toll revenue at the expense of the environment. As noted in AB 1500 that extended HOV privileges to alternative fuel cars, but not hybrids (that, by the way, use gasoline and not alternative fuels) that the vast majority (75-85%) of single pasenger drivers in the HOV lane were hybrid drivers who are no longer allowed to use the HOV lane. On that basis, Ms. Wigging should have said that 1 in 20 cars on the 110 HOV lane during peak commuter hours were alternative fuel cars.