California issues all 85,000 hybrid car pool passes.
Gary Richards - Mercury News - Feb. 3, 2007
The Department of Motor Vehicles is no longer accepting applications for stickers that allow solo drivers of hybrid and natural gas vehicles to use carpool lanes.
If you just bought a hybrid car but don't yet have your carpool lane sticker, two words: Forget it.
The Department of Motor Vehicles announced Friday that it no longer will accept applications from qualified hybrid drivers -- those who own a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic or the older Honda Insight -- for permission to drive solo in the diamond lane.
State law allowed the DMV to issue 85,000 stickers to certain hybrid drivers on a first-come, first-served basis. Spokesman Steve Haskins said his agency now has received 700 applications more than the limit and no longer wants motorists to send in carpool paperwork.
``We have no more stickers available to issue, and any applications sent to DMV will likely not be successfully processed,'' Haskins said. ``Any unprocessed applications and checks will be returned as soon as the last of the stickers are mailed to customers.
``It looks like we have reached the end of this program.''
Drat, said Mike Draeger, of Campbell, who bought a Prius last month and fired off his application last weekend.
He didn't even have his license plate number, which is required. But knowing time was running short, he sent the paperwork anyway in hopes the DMV would accept his request.
``I'm not sure what's going to happen,'' Draeger said. ``I'm hoping to get lucky.''
The state passed legislation in 2005 allowing 75,000 hybrids in the carpool lanes. Last year, new legislation boosted that number to 85,000, even though Caltrans recommended capping it at the lower figure. The agency was worried because a state study showed carpool lanes are becoming clogged on many Bay Area highways. The stickers are good until 2010, and there is no indication lawmakers will extend the program again.
The carpool law was initially seen as a way to boost hybrid sales, thus helping to cut down on automobile emissions and increase fuel efficiency. It might have helped -- certainly, hybrid sales have soared: Nearly 135,000 hybrids are registered in the state, double the number from a year ago.
Some drivers resent the carpool perk and are happy to see it end.
``The intended use of the carpool lanes is to reduce congestion by getting people to use carpools,'' said Lynnwood Brown of San Jose. ``Those people that are concerned about the environment and getting better gas mileage can and should buy hybrids, but that does nothing to reduce congestion. People that have hybrids should either form a carpool or get in line and suffer with the rest of us.''
To obtain the $8 permit, California motorists had to drive a vehicle that gets at least 45 miles per gallon of gas in highway driving. The Prius, Civic and Insight are the only hybrids that qualified.
If you didn't beat the deadline, there's one last hope. Buy a used hybrid that already has a sticker -- the stickers must remain with the car when sold.