Tuesday, you see, was Earth Day, and on Earth Day the garage offered free parking for hybrids. This Tahoe is a hybrid. So while the guy ahead of me in the four-cylinder Toyota Camry dutifully paid his tab, I, as a savior of Mother Earth, righteously demanded my perk.Here in Virginia hybrid vehicles get an exemption to HOV requirements. That means that a single driver in a vehicle that only gets around 25 miles per gallon on the highway has the same privilege to drive in the HOV lane as three people commuting in a vehicle that gets 35 miles to the gallon. This is, of course, ridiculous, but it was an unintended consequence of state transportation policies. Each year, the government in Richmond adjusts the rules to extend the hybrid exemption, as each year it is set to expire.
This, of course, was a ludicrous situation that highlights the problems that can arise when preferential treatment is based on a particular technology instead of an objective performance measure. Whoever decided to promote free parking for Earth Day was doubtlessly envisioning a parade of Toyota Priuses and Honda Insights gliding up to that cashier, not a mammoth Tahoe that looks as if it could tow a 6,000-pound boat, because it could. Hinging a perk like this on a particular technology instead of on a quantifiable performance standard is like saying, to play on the women’s Olympic basketball team you need to wear a dress to tryouts. So Shaq shows up in a dress and makes the team. - The New York Times
Hybrids are more expensive than their non-hybrid counterparts. Thus, one effect of this policy is that the wealthy get to buy their way out of carpooling while those of us who can only afford reasonable cars either sit in traffic or do the right thing and carpool to get in the HOV lane. As with User Pays, economic inequality is exacerbated by government policy when it comes to hybrids and HOV lanes, allowing those with the means to buy their way out of dealing with public problems.
The whole idea behind a commonwealth is public solutions to public problems. Answers to our problems must be found and implemented together. When we let one segment of our society buy their way out of dealing with our collective problems, we divide our house against itself. And, as Lincoln said, that cannot stand.