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Free ride ending for LA freeway 'sticker' eco cars

A policy change means that LA County's so-called "Lexus Lanes" will shortly charge solo-driven EVs and PHEV owners.

Busy Los Angeles Freeway Interchange Aerial
Art Wager / Getty Images

If you're in Los Angeles and have been driving an electric or plug-in electric car because it gets you access to Express Lanes and carpool lanes as a solo driver, we have some bad news for you: The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has just kicked your favorite key green-car incentive to the curb.

According to Green Car Reports, a 10-1 vote by Metro has killed the DMV's "sticker car" provision within the county, although state law still allows for solo drivers whose vehicles sport a white or green decal to use Caltrans' standard carpool lanes. The change will affect motorists on the 110 from South Bay to South LA, as well as a stretch of the I-10 that runs from San Gabriel Valley to LA.

Why did Metro decide to disincentivize electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles? In a word: Traffic. Between the rising popularity of these types of vehicles and the frequency with which the state had been issuing these stickers, the situation had become unmanageable. 

LA freeways
LPettet / Getty

In the bill's place, cars like the Chevrolet Volt PHEV and Bolt EV, Nissan Leaf, as well as all Tesla models and many other eco vehicles will instead be eligible for a much more modest 15-percent discount on Express Lanes.

Metro board member and city councilman Paul Kerkorian told KTLA Channel 5: "If the question is social equity, I cannot rationalize subsidizing someone who puts their tie on and hops in their Tesla to drive to work, and not subsidizing a guy who throws his tools in the back of his Toyota pickup truck to go to work."

Drivers with existing clean-air stickers will not be charged a toll until later this year -- likely November or December.