Monday, July 26, 2010

Hybrid Moments: Letting Hybrid Drivers Park for Free Downtown? A Capital Idea

Posted By on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 11:05 AM

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Metro Council dude Jason Holleman is proposing letting hybrid drivers park for free downtown at meters for up to three hours as both reward for lowering emissions and incentive to purchase a more fuel-efficient car. My first thought was, when did people start going downtown again?

I kid. But seriously, I've got a better idea: Why not just let anyone who's around 50 and makes over $100,000 park for free? Because those are the people who drive hybrids.

Even though Holleman is attempting to influence future car purchases with this incentive, in essence he's proposing a break for the already affluent. Like they need more tax breaks — the BMW hybrid was just approved for a $900 credit, though some folks claim that, even though it technically uses the same technologies, it has negligible environmental benefits.

Meanwhile, other lower-priced hybrids' tax credits are being phased out. Or, as is the case for Toyota and Honda hybrids, they are no longer available, since those automakers have sold a certain number of units.

Strangely, I agree with Glenn Beck in sentiment here:

“Do you know the average household income of a hybrid buyer is over $113,000? That’s more than double the average household, and six times the poverty level. The purchase of a hybrid is a better indicator of household wealth than a doctorate degree," he reportedly said, then asked an imaginary liberal, "Aren’t tax breaks for the wealthy usually the kind of thing you’re infuriated about?”

Of course, Beck is amusingly misguided in the general sense. His larger context there — which I disagree with — included the notion that no one actually wants to buy hybrids because the pickup truck still reigns supreme. That's inaccurate, since it doesn't account for passenger vehicle sales. But the sense I get from talking to people is that they absolutely want to buy hybrids. It's just that with many still considerably more expensive than the average economy car — one exception is the new Lincoln hybrid, which costs exactly the same as its gas-only counterpart — most people still can't afford them.

Until most people can, I'd probably try finding ways to reward folks for environmental do-gooding that most of us can take part in, like recycling or composting or using paper bags. Or even things that, while expensive overall, have piecemeal opportunities to take part in smaller ways, like using solar panels. Of course, that doesn't get us downtown to spend our hard-earned dollars. Still, you wouldn't want to encourage the hostility some folks already feel toward hybrids.

UPDATE: This site allows you to compute whether your car would qualify. Supposedly you need a score of 16 or higher. Assuming I'm looking at this correctly, my Honda Fit, supposedly one of the most fuel-efficient non-hybrids on the market, only gets a 14. But a Civic hybrid gets 19.

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