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Hybrid Cars Get Handicap-Like Parking Privileges in Florida

"...to recognize them for doing their part to be environmentally aware..."

Usually, special front-row parking is reserved for the handicapped or the elderly. Not in Orlando, Florida. There, hybrid vehicle owners are starting to get the same privileges.

An increasing number of Orlando buildings and venues are instituting front-row hybrid-only parking spaces in an attempt to earn "green" building status and reward car owners considered environmentally friendly. Places like the University of Central Florida, Ikea in South Orlando, and the Amway Center are just a few who are giving hybrid's preferential treatment.

For now, the hybrid-only spots aren't policed like a handicapped parking spot. But defenders are hoping the public will shame people into compliance.

"Right now this is a promotional thing, so I don't think we're seeing enforcement," Jon Ippel, the city of Orlando's sustainability manager, told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's more peer pressure. Hopefully the evil eyes violators get will force them to comply." He went on to call the spots "sustainable spaces."

A spokeswoman for the city of Orlando agreed. "There are the social-pressure aspects of it that should restrict it for those people it's reserved for," Cassandra Lafser told the Sentinel. She also included "green" parking in the same category as special spots for pregnant women.

"We reserve spaces for guests who have premium seating in the arena, and felt that it was important to also reserve spaces for those guests who are driving hybrid vehicles and/or carpooling to events, to recognize them for doing their part to be environmentally aware," said UCF Arena Marketing Director Melissa Schaaff.

The hybrid-only parking phenomenon has been gaining traction in recent years. Residents have noticed them popping up at a Chicago Home Depot, a Nevada grocery store, and a North Carolina hotel. Enthusiasts and store owners can even purchase hybrid-only parking signs on Amazon.com.

Not everyone around the country approves, however. Some municipalities are even getting heat for the practice. Fort Collins, CO residents recently got the city to reverse its decision to implement the hybrid-only slots after many complained that the signs amounted to the city telling them what to drive.

Similarly, in Orlando some people are "green" with envy. Especially considering hybrids are generally more expensive than a regular car.

"I have heard that some people didn't like it because they question whether it's fair," Alexa Stone, program manager for ecoPreserve LLC, an Orlando consulting firm, told the Sentinel. "They think hybrids are expensive and elitist."

And they are. The Nissan Leaf, for example, sells for around $32,000. That price goes down once taxpayers kick in $7,500 in federal tax subsidies. In contrast, one could purchase a small sedan such as the Hyundai Elantra for around $18,000.

As Kermit once said, "It's not easy being green." But in Orlando, it does have its perks.

Read the story from the Orlando Sentinel.

UPDATE:

Commenter CAPT_SPALDING points out that in Nashville, TN hybrid owners now get free parking downtown. WSMV reports:

The Metro Council voted to approve an ordinance to allow environmentally friendly cars owners to park free in downtown Nashville. The vote happened on the same day as one of the most anticipated "green" cars rolled out in Tennessee.

Hybrid car owners will have to pay a one-time $10 fee, according to the ordinance."I never have to go to the gas station again," said Ashley Heeren. [...]

The mayor signed an executive order in 2008 to make Nashville a "greener place," and one proposal to do that is to offer those who drive environmentally friendly cars free downtown parking at meters.

One last thing…
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