BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 1500
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          AB 1500 (Lieu)
          As Amended  May 26, 2010
          Majority vote
          |ASSEMBLY:  |46-31|(June 3, 2009)  |SENATE: |25-8 |(June 17,      |
          |           |     |                |        |     |2010)          |
           Original Committee Reference:    TRANS  .

           SUMMARY  :  Extends the sunset date on a program granting high  
          occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane driving privileges to electric  
          vehicles and natural gas vehicles.  Specifically, this bill  
          extends, until January 1, 2015, the sunset date for the statute  
          that allows super ultra-low emission vehicles, ultra-low  
          emission vehicles, inherently low-emission vehicles, whether or  
          not they have the required number of occupants.  

           The Senate amendments  change the program's sunset date to 2015,  
          rather than 2016.  

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Allows the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and local  
            authorities to reserve highway lanes within their respective  
            jurisdictions for the exclusive use of HOVs.  

          2)Prohibits the operation of single occupant vehicles in HOV  
            lanes, with the exception of motorcycles and Clean Air  

          3)Allows the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue 85,000  
            Clean Air stickers to hybrid vehicles that meet specified  
            emission criteria and have a fuel economy rating of at least  
            45 miles per gallon.  

          4)Allows a vehicle that meets California's super ultra-low  
            emission vehicle standard for exhaust emissions and the  
            federal inherently low-emission vehicle evaporative emission  
            standard, or a vehicle that was produced during the 2004  
            model-year or earlier and meets California ultra-low emission  
            vehicle standard for exhaust emissions and the federal  
            inherently low-emission vehicle evaporative emission standard,  


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            to operate in an HOV lane without regard to occupancy levels.   
            (As a practical matter, this means electric and natural  
            gas-powered vehicles.)  

          5)Requires DMV to issue Clean Air stickers to vehicles meeting  
            those standards.  

          6)Allows single-occupant Clean Air vehicles to operate in HOV  
            lanes until such time as Caltrans determines that federal law  
            does not authorize the state to allow such vehicles to use  
            those lanes.  

          7)Requires Caltrans to submit a notice of such a determination  
            to the Secretary of State, at which time HOV lane access  
            privileges for single occupant Clean Air vehicles would be  

          8)Requires Caltrans to remove individual HOV lanes, or HOV lane  
            segments, during periods of peak congestion from these access  
            provisions if it finds that the lane or lane segment exceeds a  
            level of service C, and that the operation or projected  
            operation of Clean Air vehicles will significantly increase  
            HOV lane congestion.  

          9)Sunsets HOV lane access privileges for Clean Air vehicles when  
            the Secretary of State receives Caltrans' notification of a  
            federal ban, or on January 1, 2011, whichever occurs first. 

           AS PASSED BY THE ASSEMBLY  , this bill was substantially similar  
          to the version passed in the Senate.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee analysis, Caltrans devotes eight staff statewide to  
          monitor and report on the performance of its 1,300 miles of HOV  
          lanes pursuant to federal requirements, thus this monitoring  
          would continue even with the sunset of this program.   
          Nevertheless, there is some marginal cost, probably under  
          $150,000, for Caltrans to continue monitoring the additional  
          impact that the low-emission vehicle privilege has on HOV lane  
          performance.  Furthermore, since the special access to HOV lanes  
          for hybrid vehicles-which constitute the vast majority of  
          low-emission vehicles currently allowed special access-will not  
          be continued past the current sunset date, it is far less likely  
          that the remaining low emission vehicles in the program would  
          contribute significantly to any HOV lane congestion.  


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           COMMENTS  :  An HOV lane, commonly referred to as a "carpool" or  
          "diamond" lane, is part of a traffic management strategy  
          designed to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles  
          during peak periods of traffic congestion.  These lanes are  
          intended to provide an incentive for commuters to form carpools  
          by offering reduced travel times.  The declared legislative  
          intent in establishing these lanes is to relieve traffic  
          congestion, conserve fuel, and reduce vehicular emissions.  Over  
          the years, advocates for many groups have suggested using HOV  
          lane access to reward certain behaviors or to ease the commute  
          for one class of motorists or another.  Historically, HOV lane  
          access has been proposed for doctors, seniors, veterans, the  
          disabled, and others.  These proposals were rejected as being  
          inconsistent with the original intent of establishing the lanes,  
          which is to reduce congestion.  

          Subsequently, AB 71 (Cunneen), Chapter 330, Statutes of 1999,  
          extended to certain "Clean Air" vehicles the privilege of using  
          HOV lanes even when required occupancy levels are not met.   
          Vehicles meeting AB 71's standard are generally limited to  
          battery-powered vehicles and those operating on compressed  
          natural gas, neither of which is especially prevalent in  
          California's vehicle fleet.  Proponents of AB 71 contended that  
          that this bill would induce the purchase and investment in clean  
          air vehicles, consistent with at least a part of the legislative  
          intent in authorizing HOV lanes.  In light of the relatively  
          small number of these vehicles, it was felt that the bill's  
          exemption would have negligible impact on the timesaving benefit  
          of HOV lanes.  

          Hybrid vehicles, which have become a popular means by which  
          vehicle manufacturers may meet consumer demand for fuel  
          efficiency, do not meet the clean air standard established by AB  
          71; consequently, their owners and advocates were dismayed that  
          they were not allowed into HOV lanes.  In 2004, therefore, the  
          Legislature enacted AB 2628 (Pavley), Chapter 725, Statutes of  
          2004, extending the Clean Air provisions of AB 71 to hybrid  
          vehicles that achieve 45 miles per gallon fuel economy.  Since  
          allowing large numbers of hybrids into HOV lanes would reduce  
          the effectiveness of the lanes by compromising their ability to  
          offer a quicker commute than adjacent mixed-flow lanes, AB 2628  
          limited the aggregate number of stickers for hybrids to 75,000  
          and allowed Caltrans to suspend HOV lane privileges for hybrids  
          on any particular lane that reaches a specified level of  


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          congestion.  AB 2600 (Lieu), Chapter 614, Statutes of 2006,  
          increased the limit on hybrid stickers to 85,000 and extended AB  
          2628's 2008 sunset date to 2011.  (DMV reached the 85,000  
          sticker cap for hybrids in February 2007 and is no longer  
          issuing new hybrid stickers.)  

          In June of 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)  
          requested Caltrans to submit a plan to address "HOV lane  
          degradation" on California freeways.  Caltrans' analysis had  
          indicated that 54% of its HOV lanes had experienced such  
          degradation (i.e., the lane does not maintain 45 mph or greater  
          operating speed during peak commute hours for 90% or more of 180  
          consecutive workdays).  Recognizing that one component of HOV  
          lane congestion may be the presence of hybrid vehicles; one of  
          the options that Caltrans is considering is banning hybrids in  
          certain HOV lanes, as it is already authorized to do.  

          This bill would extend, for an additional five years, the  
          authorization for natural gas and electric vehicles to operate  
          in HOV lanes but would allow that authorization for hybrids to  
          sunset as scheduled on January 1, 2011.  

          As beneficial as hybrids are, by virtue of their reduced  
          consumption of gasoline, to the state's environment and economy,  
          it is difficult to articulate a compelling rationale for  
          allowing their operation in HOV lanes for an additional five  
          years.  The initial impetus for granting this privilege was to  
          incentivize their purchase.  The 85,000 hybrids that are  
          currently stickered have indeed been purchased.  As no  
          additional stickers are available for issue, HOV lane access is  
          no longer an incentive to purchase a new hybrid.  And as the  
          automotive industry adjusts its mix of models to meet consumer  
          demand for higher mileage vehicles, hybrids are capturing an  
          increasing share of the market without any need for incentives.   
          Extending the sunset date of the program therefore simply  
          continues to reward motorists for purchase choices they made  
          several years ago while making more difficult the task of  
          reducing congestion in HOV lanes.  

          Natural gas and electric vehicles, by contrast, are rather small  
          in number, continue to struggle for market share, and place few  
          demands on the HOV lane system.  Additionally, as supporters  
          point out, natural gas vehicles are primarily used in fleet  
          applications (taxis, shuttles, and public agencies).  "Because  
          fleet owners need adequate time to make vehicle fleet  


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          replacement decisions, it is important that they be assured the  
          single occupancy HOV lane access will be continued beyond the  
          current (December 31) 2010 sunset."  Signaling an extension of  
          the program well in advance of its scheduled sunset will help  
          assure continued purchases of natural gas vehicles.  

          Related legislation:  SB 535 (Yee) would allow HOV lane  
          privileges for electric and natural gas vehicles as well as for  
          hybrids to sunset as scheduled in 2011 but would grant HOV lane  
          privileges for "plug-in" hybrids.  That bill is scheduled to be  
          heard tomorrow in the Senate Transportation and Housing  
          Committee.  AB 1502 (Eng) would extend until January 1, 2017,  
          the sunset date for natural gas and electric vehicle access to  
          HOV lanes.  AB 1502 has not been scheduled for a hearing.  

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Howard Posner / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093

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