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Aspen hybrid can’t park free in Aspen

Charles Agar
Vail, CO Colorado
Mark Fox/Aspen Times file photoAnn MacLeod, left, and Karen Signell organized a parade of Toyota Priuses in Basalt last summer. The hybrid are eligible for free parking in parts of Aspen " unlike the SUV named after the resort.
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ASPEN ” Chrysler’s new Aspen Hybrid, planned for 2008, won’t make the cut for special parking breaks in Aspen, according to city parking officials.

Parking officials grant hybrid drivers a free permit for residential zones normally restricted to a two-hour limit during the day. And hybrid owners are free to park in spots designated for carpooling.

But the new Aspen Hybrid, like many hybrid SUVs and trucks, isn’t efficient enough by Aspen standards, according to parking officials.

“There’s an approved list. And the new hybrid trucks that come out don’t qualify,” said Tim Ware, director of parking. “The only SUVs that qualify are the Lexus and the Highlander.”

To qualify for free parking in Aspen, hybrids have to meet the federal Super Ultra Low Efficient Vehicle scale, Ware said.

“The Prius and the Honda Accord hybrids are really important steps forward,” said Philip Verleger, an Aspen-based economist who studies fuel trends. “But the SUV is a feel-good car.”

“The town of Aspen has done the right thing by limiting it,” Verleger said. “But the standard should be not whether it’s a hybrid, but fuel economy,” Verleger said, adding that Mercedes plans a diesel vehicle that will get almost 60 miles per gallon.

Super Ultra Low Efficient Vehicle vehicles are 90 percent cleaner than the average new car and emit 2 pounds of hydrocarbons per 100,000 miles, the equivalent of spilling a pint of gasoline, according to http://www.driveclean.ca.gov., a Web site that rates vehicles for California’s strict regulations.

Owners of hybrids that qualify are not automatically exempt, Ware said.

Hybrid owners must come to City Hall and pick up a free permit at the city parking department. And hybrid parking passes are good only for the hybrid ” permits are not transferable to the owner’s other vehicles.

The program is doubling in size every year, and as the number of hybrid vehicles increase the rules in Aspen would likely change, Ware said.

“[The Aspen City Council] can end this ordinance any time they want,” said Ware, adding that some citizens have complained about hybrids taking up carpool parking.


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