Capping off National Drive Electric Week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law half a dozen bills to strengthen California’s best-in-the-nation electric vehicle market, including free or reduced-rate access to new high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, and more HOV stickers for plug-in hybrids.
The action builds on the state’s efforts to support the growth of the electric vehicle market, including legislation Governor Brown signed last year and the executive order he issued in 2012 to establish a target of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025 and a number of other long-term goals. California accounts for 40% of US plug-in electric vehicle sales and earlier this month, surpassed 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold. (Earlier post.)
The Governor signed the following bills:
AB 1721 by Assemblymember Eric F. Linder (R-Corona): Grants free or reduced-rates in high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to clean air vehicles. HOT lanes, which are increasingly being implemented in metropolitan areas around the state and the country, allow single-occupant or lower-occupant vehicles to use an HOV lane for a fee, while maintaining free or reduced travel to qualifying HOVs. The purported benefits of HOT lanes include enhanced mobility and travel options in congested corridors and better usage of underutilized HOV lanes.
While single-occupant clean air vehicles enjoy access to HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes in California, they do not necessarily enjoy free passage on toll bridges or toll highways. Clean air vehicles must pay full fare to use the toll roads in Orange County but enjoy discounted rates to cross the San Francisco Bay Area bridges and to use the State Route 91 Express Lanes in Orange and Riverside Counties.
AB 2013 by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance): Increases from 55,000 to 70,000 the number of enhanced advanced technology partial zero-emission vehicles (e.g., plug-in hybrids) that may be allowed in high-occupancy vehicle lanes, regardless of occupancy level.
HOV lane access to single-occupant, clean air vehicles was first authorized in 1999; the intent of this original authority (and subsequent authorities) was to incentivize the purchase of clean air vehicles. The original 40,000-sticker limit was reached on 9 May 2014. The limit was then raised by 15,000 vehicles to allow stickers to continue to be issued.
Despite the success of clean air vehicle programs there continue to be concerns that allowing additional cars in the HOV lanes could result in degraded performance of the lanes. The fear is that, if HOV lanes become sufficiently degraded, their benefits (i.e., traffic congestion relief, fuel conservation, and reduced emissions) will be lost and carpooling will be discouraged.
The latest HOV performance monitoring report issued by Caltrans (based on 2011 data), indicates that in the first half of 2011, 43% of the HOV lanes were degraded. That number rose to 49% for the second half of 2011. According to Caltrans, data indicate that recurrent congestion and other contributing factors are primary causes for HOV lane degradation.
While raising the existing cap from 55,000 to 70,000 will likely not help the HOV lane degradation problem, past experience indicates it is unlikely to make the situation significantly worse, the Assembly decided.
AB 2090 by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-San Jose): Repeals specific level of service (LOS) requirements for high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes operated by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and requires instead that the agencies, with consent of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), develop appropriate performance measures for the HOT lanes; authorizes SANDAG and VTA to require high occupancy vehicle lane (HOV) drivers to use electronic tolling equipment for enforcement purposes in HOT lanes.
AB 2565 by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance): Requires commercial and residential property owners to approve installation of an electric vehicle charging station by renters, so long as the station meets requirements and complies with the owner’s process for approving a modification to the property and makes a term in a lease of a commercial property, executed, renewed, or extended on or after 1 January 2015, void and unenforceable if it prohibits or unreasonably restricts the installation of an EV charging station in a parking space.
SB 1275 by Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles): Creates the Charge Ahead California Initiative, which provides incentives to increase the availability of zero emission vehicles in low-income communities.
The goals of the initiative, which is to be administered by the California Air Resources Board (ARB), are: (1) to place at least 1 million ZEVs and NZEVs into service by 1 January 2023; (2) to establish a self-sustaining ZEV and NZEV market where these vehicles are a viable mainstream option; (3) to increase access to ZEVs and NZEVs for disadvantaged, low- and moderate-income communities and consumers; and (4) to increase the placement of ZEVs and NZEVs in disadvantaged communities.
SB 1298 by Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina): Makes the pilot projects for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s operation of HOT lanes on State Highway Routes 10 and 110 permanent.