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220K California Drivers Set To Lose HOV Decals In January

A California issued clean air vehicle decal on the rear bumper of a car, San Diego, Oct. 31, 2018.
Priya Sridhar
A California issued clean air vehicle decal on the rear bumper of a car, San Diego, Oct. 31, 2018.
220K California Drivers Set To Lose HOV Decals In January
220K California Drivers Set To Lose HOV Decals In January GUEST:Priya Sridhar, reporter, KPBS News

220K California Drivers Set To Lose HOV Decals In January Viss K PBS midday edition I'm wearing Cavanagh. Thousands of California drivers are set to lose access to H.O. v lanes this January. PBS reporter Priya Schriefer explains why we've all been there stuck in San Diego traffic and it's even worse when you're in a rush or trying to get to work. That's when ideally riding in a high occupancy vehicle lane could make your life a little bit easier. Tyson Siegel has been driving his Chevy Volt in the H.O. violations by himself for the past six months. The nice thing is that ovulated sticker initially got someone interested in purchasing this vehicle. He's one of thousands of California drivers who were able to drive in the HLV lanes because of a department of motor vehicle incentive program that gives drivers of clean air vehicles decals to use the lanes. Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher voted for a new H.O. vehicle law. Over half are greenhouse gas emissions are coming from tailpipe emissions. So moving people into public transit and electric vehicles are a priority for our state. The incentive to drive in the HLV Lane was the largest incentive for somebody to buy an electric vehicle beyond the you know social responsibility. And so it was clear that that was meaningful for folks in order to purchase an electric vehicle. Now almost 220000 including Seigal will lose 30 cal January 1st thanks to the new law changing the list of zero to low emission vehicles eligible for the sticker. Absolutely it will make kids longer. It will make things a little less convenient for me and even though the interviewing would be great to continue to have it's something that. I still have all of the benefits for me to avoid. It's more fun to drive is less expensive to drive. Not all electric car drivers are as neutral about the rule change. Olean Boriss will lose the decal on her Tesla in January too. So I'm not happy about it. It's kind of infuriating to some electric vehicle owners that. I've driven 90000 a one trick only miles and then somebody who has a 16 mile electric range is now going to be able to be in the ATV lane and I'm not. But Gonzalez Fletcher says the rule change was necessary to get a new demographic of California drivers to buy clean air vehicles. It was never meant to be a permanent incentive but an incentive that would help get people into electric vehicles get people purchasing them looking at them and that's what you know at some point it has to sunset. The California Air Resources Board helped draft the list of zero to low emission vehicles eligible for the new red decals. You can get those decals now and they're valid until 2022. Some more recently purchased clean air vehicles with an old green or white decal will also qualify to change those to the new red sticker. While both Boriss and Siegle will lose their stickers this January they say they're happy they'll gain new fellow clean air drivers on the roads. Joining me is Kay PBS reporter Priya Sritharan. Priya welcome. Thank you for having me. What's the new criteria that makes some electric vehicles eligible for H.O. v lanes and then some not so. It's actually the air resources board that decided which vehicles were eligible and which weren't. You can actually find a link to that on our Web site KPP dot org. But essentially you know it's similar to the standards that they had before with the white and the green decals. The difference being is that it's for people who bought cars more recently. If you did have one of those other decals the greener the White ones and you happened to buy your vehicle after January 1st of 2017 you are eligible to change that over to a red decal. But essentially what they're trying to do here is to get more people to buy electric cars which in turn is going to be better for the environment. So that's the main reason that they're changing the rules is to just get more people who didn't have electric cars before to buy them have electric car owners been aware that these decals are going to expire. So I got a chance to speak with a representative from the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento and he said that anyone who has those greener white decals will be getting a letter in the mail saying that they're either going to expire or like I said if you fall into that category where you bought your vehicle after January 1st of 2017 they'll actually send you a prefilled application for the ride decal in the mail. And the red decal will not expire until January 1st of 2022. So if you do have a decal you know look out in the mail for something from the DMV letting you know which category you fall into now. Can you explain that comment we heard from one Tesla owner. What does she mean. Somebody with a 16 mile electric range is eligible when she's not. So the reason she's not eligible is because she bought her car prior to 2017. So that's the reason that she's not. But what she was trying to say is that she essentially drives everywhere on just electric Miles. However some cars don't have as big of a range so they can only drive let's say 16 miles before they either have to switch over to driving like a regular car with gas or plugging their car in and charging it. So essentially she was saying that you know she found it kind of problematic that she does all of her driving with electric Miles while some people who don't do that you know will be able to drive in the lanes. But again going back to the point that we heard from a Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher is that they're trying to get more people to buy the cars even if they're not completely electric. It's still better than nothing because it's exposing people to this concept. So what's the state's rationale for changing up the vehicles eligible for ROV lanes so this is actually kind of interesting because I didn't know this at all but apparently the Federal Highway Administration which is subdepartment of the Department of Transportation actually sets the rules for how HIV lanes around the country are supposed to work. So they actually monitor all the HIV lanes around the country and the lanes have to be going at 45 miles per hour. 90 percent of the time over a 180 day monitoring period and that's during morning and evening weekday peak hours. So if the lanes are not moving at 45 mph 90 percent of the time they then call those H.O. v lanes degraded and the state has to actually do something to fix that. So here in California they found that a lot of the lanes across the state fell into that degraded category. So California had to do something to fix that and get themselves out of that category. And this is what they came up with the last time though I looked kind of over with envy. They drove the lanes. They were really crowded. Why not just let all the zero to low emission electric vehicles use those lanes. Yeah. So according to the last Caltrans report about HIV LNS this was done in 2016. 864 miles of HIV AIDS in California were degraded and 467 weren't. So as I just said that means that they weren't moving at forty five miles per hour. So perhaps the lanes that you saw looked clear maybe those were part of the 467 that aren't degraded but apparently in many parts of this state. HLV lanes are extremely crowded and they had to do something about it. How are sales of electric vehicles going in California. So California leads the country with electric vehicle sales 50 percent of all electric vehicle purchases that happen across the country or from here in California. And just from from last year to this year we're seeing a 26 percent increase nationally in electric car purchases and then if you think about that that half of it's coming from here in California we have a huge number and a lot of people who are in that industry say it's because of these policies that are sort of giving incentives to people to buy electric vehicles. Is there any way to actually gauge how much the free H.O. v Lane is an incentive for people to buy electric. Yes so there was actually a UCLA study that was done very recently that said that they can predict with a 95 percent confidence level that one quarter of people who are buying electric cars in California were doing it because they wanted the HIV Lane decal. Because think about it you know as I said in the beginning of this story I mean when you're driving to work and you're sitting in San Diego traffic I mean you just want to get into that line. So if you can if you're thinking about buying a new car and that's something that you can get an added bonus with. Why not. And it was interesting because they said the incentive was even bigger in places like San Diego Sacramento and Los Angeles. OK. I've been speaking with PBS reporter Pria Shriram. Thank you Pria. Thanks.

California has passed a law creating a new decal program for access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes. This means that nearly 220,000 drivers of zero to low emission vehicles will be losing their decals Jan. 1, 2019.

Tyson Siegele has been driving his Chevy Volt in the HOV lanes with a clean air decal for the past six months. He will be losing his decal in January.

"It absolutely will make my commutes longer, it will make things a little less convenient for me … but even though the HOV lane is great to continue to have, I still have all of the benefits of an electric vehicle, it’s more fun to drive, it’s less expensive to drive," he said.

The California Air Resources Board helped draft the list of zero to low emission vehicles eligible for the new red decals. The red decals are available now and valid until 2022.

"Half our greenhouse gas emissions are coming from tailpipe emissions, so moving people into electric vehicles and public transit are a priority for our state … The incentive to drive in an HOV lane was the largest incentive for somebody to buy an electric car beyond the social responsibility, so it was clear that that was meaningful for folks in order to purchase an electric vehicle," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego.

She said the rule change was necessary to get a new demographic of California drivers to buy clean air vehicles. "It was never meant to be a permanent incentive, but an incentive to help people get into electric vehicles, get people purchasing them, looking at them, and that’s what at some point, it has to sunset," she said.

Not all electric car drivers are happy with the rule change. Elaine Borseth will be losing the decal on her Tesla in January.

"I’m not happy about it … it's kind of infuriating to some electric vehicle owners. I’ve driven 90,000 electric only miles and then somebody who has a 16-mile electric range is now going to be able to be in the HOV lane, and I’m not," she said.

Some more recently purchased clean air vehicles with an old green or white decal will also qualify to change over to a new red sticker.

"Some vehicles that were bought in 2017 or 2018 or vehicles that were issued a decal in 2017 or 2018 are eligible to apply and get that HOV lane access extended to January 1 of 2022," said Artemio Armenta from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

For more information on how to apply for a decal visit: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/decal