Aspen drives up hybrid perks |

Aspen drives up hybrid perks

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Drivers of hybrid gas-electric vehicles should enjoy both free parking and a $100 rebate on their vehicle registration fee, the Aspen City Council concluded Monday.

The council had been debating one perk or the other for owners of vehicles that meet the Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standard. Last night, a slim council majority coalesced in favor of both incentives to promote the environmentally friendlier vehicles.

Members delayed formal action on the matter so a new ordinance reflecting their wishes can be drafted.

Mayor Helen Klanderud voiced the strongest objections to letting drivers of the hybrids park free all day in the city’s residential and HOV zones – in effect, encouraging people to drive to town.

“It’s a direct conflict with what we’re trying to accomplish with mass transit,” she said.

“What we really want people to do is buy a green car and not use it, ever,” agreed Councilman Tim Semrau.

The rebate rewards people who make an environmentally minded purchase, Klanderud said, advocating that approach.

“We’re not giving rebates to Hummers,” she noted.

The rebates would be available only to city residents; the free parking should be offered to all drivers of hybrid vehicles, argued Councilwoman Rachel Richards.

“I don’t feel that just offering a freebie to Aspen residents who happen to purchase a hybrid car is getting the message out,” she said.

Councilmen Torre and Terry Paulson agreed to expand the parking perk to all qualifying hybrids.

Paulson hinted he’d like to see free downtown parking extended to the vehicles, as well, but the suggestion garnered no support from his colleagues.

Aspenite David Guthrie, the only member of the public to speak up, said free parking was not his goal when his company decided to lease a hybrid.

“Anytime it has four wheels and one person, it’s not environmental,” he said, questioning the wisdom of the parking perk.

A car parked one day a week for free would cost the city’s parking coffers $260 annually, said Tim Ware, head of the city’s parking department. A daily parking pass costs $5.

“We figured three or four cars a day will take us up on this at most, to start with,” he said.

The financial implications may be minimal in the beginning, but could add up over time as hybrids become more popular, hurting the parking revenues that fund the city’s bus system, Klanderud said.

“If it grew to that point, where we’re going, `Wow, look at all the hybrids in Aspen,’ I think I’d get excited about that,” Torre responded.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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