As many as 220,000 Californians who purchased low- and zero-emission cars will soon lose the privilege of driving in the state’s carpool lanes, eliminating an incentive that prompted many into buying the expensive vehicles to begin with.
Hundreds of thousands of single-occupancy commuters in California are afforded the ability to drive in carpool lanes if they have a special sticker designating them as a clean-air vehicle. The decal program, which began in 2012, was meant to get more clean-air vehicles on the road.
California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has demanded 5 million zero-emissions vehicles be on the streets by 2030. That target could prove tough considering only 400,000 zero-emission cars have been sold in the state so far. As an added incentive for consumers weary about making an expensive purchase, anyone who invests in an environmentally friendly vehicle has been awarded a green or white sticker that allows them on diamond lanes. (RELATED: Former Trump Economic Adviser Calls Green Energy Mandates A Tax On Poor People)
However, California faces another transportation issue: traffic.
Even in the state’s diamond lanes, vehicle congestion has become a growing problem. In an effort to reduce gridlock, California legislators in 2017 passed a measure that raised the bar for clean-air vehicles able to cruise in carpool lanes.
Beginning in January 2019, solo drivers will need a new, red decal in order to enter the fast-track lanes. Any drivers issued a green or white sticker in 2018 or 2017 can apply for the red decal. However, anyone who invested in a clean-air car before 2017 are kicked out of the program. For them to qualify, they would have to purchase a new vehicle altogether.
“I’m really bummed out,” Danny Shader, a Palo Alto resident, stated to The Mercury News. “It basically means that only people with the means to buy an expensive new electric car or who are willing to pay tolls can use the carpool lanes.”
Shader is far from the only person upset over the incoming rule change.
“I mean, the point of these cars are to save you money, save you gas,” Jose Huezo, another California commuter, stated to KCAL. “It’s pretty sad because these cars last a long time.”
Critics of the new rule say the problem isn’t with electric vehicles, but with fuel-burning solo drivers who are breaking the law. About one in four vehicles on the diamond lanes are there illegally, according to the California Department of Transportation. Many green car owners are arguing that law enforcement should focus on these cheaters instead of revoking their privileges.
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