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Free Hybrid Parking Proposed

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn wants to free hybrid vehicle drivers from fear of the city’s parking enforcement officers by allowing hybrids to park at meters at no cost.

“I think we want to do whatever we can to improve air quality in Los Angeles,” said the mayor, adding that he hopes the plan encourages motorists to turn to hybrids.

“I think it will be fun. People will realize they won’t have to fish around for those quarters,” he said.

Hahn’s proposed gift to hybrid drivers comes as the mayor prepares for a tough reelection battle against some seasoned opponents.

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Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office said the councilman, who zips around in an electric car, will introduce a motion this morning asking the council to order the city’s Department of Transportation to waive the fees for six months, starting Sept. 1.

The city already offers free parking for electric and natural gas cars and trucks. Vehicles that can park for free would still have to abide by posted time limits.

Hybrid drivers welcomed the proposed break. “I would love that,” said Jerry Burnham, an Atwater Village resident who drives a Toyota Prius.

Hybrid vehicles use both gas and electric power. In a city where car emissions are a major contributor to air pollution, Hahn said the plan is a low-cost way to encourage environmentally friendly practices.

City officials said that there are about 4,700 registered hybrids in the city, and that offering free parking would be “another incentive” for consumers to buy them.

San Jose has had a similar program for three years, though Hahn said he proposed his plan after a suggestion from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Hahn’s office said the city plans to review the program after six months to decide whether it is economically feasible to continue it. Officials said they don’t know how much revenue would be lost, but estimate it would be negligible.

The free meters for natural gas and electric vehicles cost the city about $2 out of the $80,000 taken in each day from meters. There are 42,000 meters in L.A. and the city collects about $140 million yearly in parking tickets.

Assuming the council approves his plan, Hahn, who commutes from San Pedro in a gas-powered Chevrolet Tahoe, said he is considering buying a hybrid so he can park for free at meters. It is a common misconception, he said, that the mayor and other officials with government license plates don’t have to feed the meters.


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