California DMV finally announced today that owners of select hybrid vehicles (Prius, Civic and Insight) could apply for a sticker that would allow them to drive in the carpool lane even with only one occupant in the car. Hurray!
However, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), snuck in a condition that hyrbid owners in their turf, the nine counties of the Bay area had to get a Fastrak transponder before they could get the sticker. (They operate the Fastrak program in this area.) Fastrak is used for paying toll on the handful of bridges criss-crossing the area, by having the toll ‘transmitted’ and deducted from your account as you pass through the toll gates without stopping. (You do have to slow down to about 5 MPH, though.)
Bad idea. There’s a 40$ deposit on the transponder (fully refunded if you ever decide to return your transponder), on top of the deposit in your account to pay for the tolls.
I actually got a Fastrak transponder, just because I think this transportation-related electronic gadget is wonderful and should be supported, even though I cross toll bridges a few times each year. I love hearing that little beep, after passing all the cars stuck in the adjoining cash toll lanes.
But to force all hybrid owners who want to get the carpool lane sticker to get a transponder is wrong. For some people, who live and travel along corridors without toll bridges, it’s not right that they should be stuck with a gadget and a $40 deposit/fee that they don’t use, i.e. if they live in northern Sonoma County, or southern Santa Clara County, where there US101 gets very congested, even with carpool lanes that they deserve to be able to use.
Besides, this will cause a delay for Bay Area hybrid owners to apply for the sticker. If they run out of stickers because most of them got allocated to Southern California, where there’s no Fastrak requirement, I’ll be pissed.