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City of Berkeley May Offer Parking Meter Amnesty for Hybrids

March 22, 2005

BERKELEY, CA — Free parking in Berkeley soon may be added to the laundry list of perks for driving a hybrid car, according to the Alameda Times-Star. City budget and energy commissioners will hammer out details of the City Council's idea to allow those who buy hybrid cars in Berkeley up to one-hour blocks of free parking anywhere in the city for one or two years. Los Angeles gives hybrid owners free parking in the city. "There's nothing in the city of Berkeley more prized than free parking," Councilmember Linda Maio said. "People love free parking and hate parking meters ... what a benefit to pull into a parking space and not having to fish around for change. And we are sending a message that this is important and we are willing to make a contribution." Further study is needed, but drivers entitled to the free spots probably would be issued a sticker or placard for their cars, city officials said. Lost meter revenue would be recovered through increased tax revenues from a jump in hybrid sales, city officials said. The idea is getting mixed reviews. "As a citizen who has a Toyota Prius, I would be happy to take advantage of it and not fumble for change (for the parking meter). As a transportation policy, I don't favor the use of (carpool) lanes by singularly occupied vehicles or the provision of free parking," said Martin Wachs, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley. California also recently passed legislation that will allow owners of hybrids to drive in carpool lanes, though it will not go into effect until new federal legislation is passed. Currently, carpool lanes built with federal funding can only be used by cars carrying more than one person. But in Berkeley, it doesn't seem that drivers need an incentive to buy a hybrid. Toyota of Berkeley sells more Prius hybrids than any other dealership in the country.
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