Bay Area Traffic

State Changes Carpool Lane Program To Help Low-Income Drivers

Doug Sovern
September 17, 2018 - 9:53 am

Some drivers who buy or lease used electric and plug-in hybrid cars will be able to use carpool lanes on highways under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The new law aimed at helping low-income families buy clean cars may reduce the uproar over other recent changes to HOV rules that would have blocked 220,000 drivers from the carpool lanes.

The new law, signed last week during the Global Action Climate Summit, would allow families making 80 percent or less of the state's median income  — about $55,000 per year— to get a red carpool lane sticker if they purchase or lease a secondhand zero-emission vehicle. Previously, the state planned to only issue the decals to new electric cars. 

"The sticker is a really powerful incentive," said the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from Los Angeles county. "We want to make sure that when [drivers] go back to the market that there's an incentive for people to purchase those. They're still in good condition. They're great vehicles that still work."

The incentive for used electric and plug-in hybrid cars will go into effect in 2020, a spokesman for Lara said. 

The stickers allow solo drivers to hop into HOV lanes. 

Existing green and white stickers will expire on January 1, because state officials said that the carpool lanes are too crowded. Under certain conditions, drivers can apply for the new red sticker, but not all vehicles will be eligible. 

For more information about the decal program, visit the state's Air Resource Board