Stephen Ellison

New Law For Carpool Lane Use Looms: Solo Drivers Must Have Red Sticker

The green and white clean vehicle decals no longer will be allowed for solo motorists

The carpool lane is a perk that hundreds of thousands of solo drivers have enjoyed in the Bay Area and across California, and now they’re about to lose it.

The lanes have grown so crowded, the state is making moves to eliminate access for a lot of solo drivers, no matter what type of car they drive. On Jan. 1, vehicles with white and green stickers allowing use of carpool, or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, will be invalid, affecting more than 220,000 drivers.

A federal law stipulates that carpool lanes must have an average speed of at least 45 mph, and that's not always the case on Bay Area roads. So the carpool lanes are being cleaned out.

The move is sending some people to take a serious look at new electric cars.

"It's a big advantage," one driver said about carpool lanes."Especially here in the Bay Area. Yeah, traffic is terrible."

No matter what kind of battery-powered car has those green or white stickers, it won't be allowed in the carpool lanes with a solo driver starting next month.

The California Air Resources Board is responsible for the official list of vehicles eligible for the clean-air vehicle stickers. The current list includes zero-emission or low-emission vehicles dating back to 1997. But if a vehicle was originally issued a white or green decal before 2017, it is not eligible for the red decal and will no longer be eligible to participate in the CAV decal program after Jan, 1, the air resources board said.

Department of Motor Vehicles officials say applications for new red stickers are up 35 percent from last year.

At Premier Nissan, the belle of the ball is the new electric Leaf. It qualifies for a red sticker.

"Most of them just want it for commute, just to get the carpool lane, to get to work and get home faster," Premier's Olu Betiku said of Leaf buyers.

Also, there will be an income ceiling on e-vehicle benefits in the new year. Single people who make more than $150,000 a year or couples pulling in $300,000 will have to choose either the state rebate for going electric or the red sticker. They won't get both.

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