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No more free parking for hybrid car owners?

April 2, 2008 | 10:04 am

PriusThe pious among Prius owners seem to gloat as they drive solo in the carpool lane or park without having to feed the meter in many cities. But are these perks for the owners of fuel-efficient Prius and other hybrid cars coming to an end? 

After initially giving hybrid vehicle owners another three years of free parking at city metered spaces, the Los Angeles City Council decided to study whether to eliminate the benefit as part of an effort to close a possible $500-million budget deficit, reports the Daily News.

The city loses about $116,000 a year in meter money that would have been paid by hybrid car owners. That would do little to close the budget gap but every little bit counts, said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who proposed scrapping the free-parking perk.

"This was a great incentive when we first did it," Rosendahl said. "But hybrids don't need assistance from us. They already are getting a benefit from the savings they get by not having to buy $4-a-gallon gas."

Solo hybrid drivers might also get pushed out of the the carpool lanes under one of several options state officials were studying last year to cut down on HOV lane congestion.  Like free metered parking, allowing hybrid car owners to drive alone in the carpool lane was viewed as incentive to encourage alternative, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Now, with the rollout of hybrid SUVs getting less gas mileage than some gasoline-powered cars, support seems to be weakening for such perks, even among the vehicles' advocates. Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars.org, said he would rather see tax breaks to encourage fuel efficient, low-emission cars.

"Free parking spots for hybrids doesn't really address any problem directly," Kramer said. "It just provides a freebie for people who have high-mpg cars."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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