Drivers of electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles enjoy a special perk: They can drive solo in California's carpool lanes. But under a controversial plan proposed by local traffic agencies, those drivers will have to pay to use two heavily used carpool lanes that are being converted to toll roads. It has riled electric-car shoppers and alternative-fuel-vehicle advocates who worry that this is the first step in chipping away at a California tradition of letting solo drivers of autos with new technology and low emissions onto carpool lanes.I love that the hybrid exemption is now a "California tradition." The way the program worked, and it's less than 10 years old so not exactly a tradition handed down from generation to generation, is that qualified vehicles could get stickers that allowed solo drivers to use the cars in car pool lanes. About 85,000 sets of stickers were issued, and the program hasn't expanded for a while so the number of cars in the program is declining. (Stickers are non-transferable.) These solo drivers did clog the carpool lanes, and a hybrid with one passenger is not necessarily less polluting than a SUV with three people, and it likely is worse in terms of CO2 per passenger mile. This was a poor program on environmental, equity and efficiency grounds, and everyone should be happy it is coming to an end. Converting the free HOV lanes into toll lanes, as California is doing, is a good idea. State Senator Lowenthal is worried:
"There is a real risk that if they do it here, they might try to do it elsewhere," said state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach.)But we should be so lucky.