The Los Angeles City Council has reversed a decision to extend the parking perk for hybrids until 2011. The council is dealing with growing budget problems in Los Angeles and at least one council member wants to know how much the free parking is costing the city as L.A. faces increasing budget deficits.
"This was a great incentive when we first did it," Councilman Bill 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 gasoline.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation estimates the free hybrid parking costs the city about $116,560, less than one percent of all yearly parking meter revenues.
The move to study the hybrid parking giveaway came after the L.A. council had approved the free parking extension without discussion.
Rosendahl reportedly tried to eliminate the free parking perk but later agreed to delay his action to allow more study and testimony from environmental groups.
The city is facing a projected budget shortfall of as much as $500 million in 2008 and the council is scrambling to raise revenue.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said elimination of free parking for green cars ought to be phased in.
"I don't think we should blindside the environmental community with this," she said. "Before we make any change, we should hear from them on the impact of this."
Los Angeles began the free parking program three years ago, providing the perk to drivers with Clean Air Vehicle decals from the state for vehicles that meet a 45-mile-per-gallon requirement.
Then the free parking perk expanded. Drivers with a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic hybrid, Honda Insight or Ford Escape hybrid are now allowed to park for free at city meters even if they do not display the state decal that was originally required.
The council voted last week to extend free hybrid parking until January 1, 2011 but limit the free parking to those cars with the decal.
The state has issued 85,000 stickers, which also allow motorists to drive alone in California HOV lanes. That perk is also scheduled to end in 2011 as well.
Critics of the hybrid HOV and parking perks argue the benefits do nothing to reduce traffic congestion in the state.
With hybrid SUVs entering the market, more public officials are also beginning to question the perks.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington wants legislation to eliminate tax breaks for owners of hybrid vehicles that get less than 40 mpg.
Hybrids are also losing favor in some segments of the environmental community because of their carbon footprint stamped into the earth by massive batteries. Analysts suggest those batteries will need to be replaced every 150,000 to 200,000 miles.