Hybrid Cars Lose Special Carpool Lane Privileges

Californians who drive hybrid cars will face a rude awakening tomorrow when they lose their special carpool lane privileges.​

Since 2005, thousands of hybrid vehicles have been granted access to the carpool lane, even if there was only one person inside. Lawmakers OK'd the move as an incentive to buy environmentally friend cars. It wasn't a free for all, though. People had to pay an $8 fee and put a yellow sticker on their cars to drive in the carpool lanes.

The AP's Daisy Nguyen reports that “hybrid sales jumped” after the change, and that lawmakers eventually OK'd an extra 10,000 to the initial limit of 75,000 hybrids allowed in the carpool lanes.

Cathy Margolin, president and founder of the Orange County Prius Club, says her 250 members are well aware of the eminent change. “Everybody's really bummed,” she says.

Although she now has a different job closer to home, Margolin says that the coveted yellow sticker used to save her an hour a day on her commute to Torrance.

One club member commutes from Laguna Niguel to Carson daily, Margolin says. “She's got a problem now.” Another club member semi-seriously joked of taking her mother with her everywhere, Margolin says, so that she can still use the carpool lane, which requires at least two occupants per vehicle.

And as if Carmageddon wasn't enough, Margolin says she thinks the change will clog up the other lanes, too. “On the 405 every other car was a Prius in the carpool lane.”

Jaime Garza, a spokesman for the DMV, says there will be no grace period in enforcing the rule change.

“Of course you're going to have somebody who pleads, 'I didn't know,' but we've done everything we can,” Garza says, adding that two months ago the agency sent letters to all 85,000 people notifying them of the change.

Garza says he doesn't think hybrid owners are getting the short end of the stick-shift either, noting that the plan was initially going to expire three years ago.

“Some people have already been crying, 'why?' But, these hybrid owners have really gotten a good deal for their $8 stickers.”

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