Hybrid Perks ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Hybrid Perks

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hybrid Perks

Washington Post writer, Steven Ginsburg, wrote an article on hybrid perks (2/14 - Washington post requires registration... which I hate!) relating to the Virginia HOV. While outlining the issues related to hybrids taking up more space in the traffic that is facing carpool lanes in Virginia, it seems like Steven Ginsburg is coming out against hybrids in the HOV. But, based on his comments in a discussion that afternoon, I had to change my opion. He is simply pointing out an issue faced by Virginia lawmakers about what to do about a growing problem.

First, let's outline the issues. Since allowing hybrids in, use has gone from 4% (two years ago) to 25% of the traffic in the HOV lane on I95. That's a big jump and one that concerns many a lawmaker. Why? If congestion builds up in the carpool lane, drivers may move back into their own cars. The arguement against that is, how many people were carpooling in the first place?

People tend to misunderstand why HOV lanes exist. It's not just to reduce traffic congestion (an extremely worthy cause, in and of itself). It's also meant to reduce gas and oil consumption as well as pollution in the cities. And that is exactly what hybrids do best.

That's why people buy hybrids in the first place. Consumers are not buying hybrids in order to get into the HOV lanes. It's a nice perk, but it doesn't pay the bills.

If you want to clean up the traffic congestion in the HOV lanes, the lawmakers should increase the fines relating to cheating. Those drivers who feel it's worth the risk to drive in the HOV lane when they don't have a sticker or don't have the extra occupants will think twice if the fine is increased from $50 on the first offense. Also, the increased fines would pay for the enforcement.

One issue I take with some of those who argue against allowing hybrids because some cars get better mileage is that question of pollutants. If a hybrid reduces it's pollution by 50 - 90% over your car, even if that car gets better mileage, then isn't that a huge benefit in the smoggy (is that a word?) cities.

Oh, one other point. Have you ever gone down and seen the HOV not being used because nobody was carpooling? Seems like a waste of space to me. If the HOV lanes slow down a little based on the hybrids occupying that space, I'd have to come down on the side of it being worth the price of admission.

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