Efficient enough for free parking? | AspenTimes.com

Efficient enough for free parking?

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

ASPEN Chrysler’s new Aspen Hybrid, planned for 2008, won’t make the cut for special parking breaks in Aspen, according to city parking officials.Thanks to a temporary ordinance, parking officials grant hybrid drivers a free permit for residential zones normally restricted to a two-hour limit during daytime hours. And hybrid owners are free to park in spots otherwise designated for those who carpool.But the new Aspen Hybrid, like many hybrid SUVs and trucks, isn’t efficient enough by Aspen standards, according to parking officials.”There’s an approved list. And the new hybrid trucks that come out don’t qualify,” said Tim Ware, director of parking. “The only SUVs that qualify are the Lexus and the Highlander.”

To qualify for free parking in Aspen, hybrids have to meet the federal Super Ultra Low Efficient Vehicle scale, Ware said.”The Prius and the Honda Accord hybrids are really important steps forward,” said Philip Verleger, an Aspen-based economist who studies fuel trends. “But the SUV is a feel-good car,” a way for consumers to justify buying an inefficient vehicle.”The town of Aspen has done the right thing by limiting it,” Verleger said. “But the standard should be not whether it’s a hybrid, but fuel economy,” Verleger said, adding that Mercedes plans a diesel vehicle that will get almost 60 miles per gallon.Fuels efficiency usually translates to lower vehicle emissions, Verleger said.

“It’s a pretty high standard,” Ware said of SULEV, a scale already in place in California. SULEV vehicles are 90 percent cleaner than the average new car and emit 2 pounds of hydrocarbons per 100,000 miles, the equivalent of spilling a pint of gasoline, according to http://www.driveclean.ca.gov., a website that rates vehicles for California’s strict regulations.Owners of hybrids that qualify are not automatically exempt, Ware stressed. Hybrid owners must come to City Hall and pick up a free permit at the city parking department. And hybrid parking passes are good only for the hybrid; permits are not transferable to the owner’s other vehicles.The program is doubling in size every year, and as the number of hybrid vehicles increase the rules in Aspen would likely change, Ware said.

“[The Aspen City Council] can end this ordinance any time they want,” Ware stressed, adding that some citizens have complained about hybrids taking up carpool parking.”We might eliminate [hybrids] parking in carpool areas,” Ware said.Officials from Aspen’s parking department meet with the Aspen City Council for a work session each fall to reassess the program.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.

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