Kelowna city hall is sending a message to hybrid vehicles owners enrolled in its Eco-pass free-parking program—if you don’t plug in, you’re no longer plugged into the program.
On Monday council voted to toss hybrid vehicles out of the Eco-pass program, which offers owners of environmentally-friendly vehicles free parking downtown in return for being friendly to the environment with their choice of vehicle.
City parking manager Dave Duncan told council city that staff believe the incentive to get drivers into fuel-efficient hybrids and out of gas-guzzling, pollution-creating regular engined vehicles has been successful, so now it’s time to move forward and do the same with electric vehicles.
The move is expected to reduce the number of eco-passes the city distributes from about 1,000 currently out there, to around 200, unless there is a big upswing in electric car sales here.
Oh, and only drivers living in the Central Okanagan Regional District area will get a pass.
The Eco-pass, introduced as a temporary program in 2005, has been a way for the city to reward drivers for buying fuel-efficient vehicles. It has been extended a few times in the last 10 years and is now an ongoing program. Any driver of a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle has been able to apply for a pass and get to park fee on downtown streets for the maximum time allowed by the meter.
But no more. Once the current passes expire, or the end of the year for non-dated older passes, hybrids are out and only plug-ins are…er…in.
Not all councillors like the move. Couns. Luke Stack and Charlie Hodge both voted against, with Stack saying the total number of hybrids on the road is still not that high and driving one is still doing something positive for the environment.
He’s right. There’s nothing wrong with the city promoting the use of all fuel-efficient vehicles.
But in the eyes of his council colleagues, the cutting edge gets the reward, not an engine that’s been around for a few years now.
Good behaviour, it would seem, is only to be rewarded if it is accompanied by the latest technology.
What sort of signal does that send?
In related news the city is getting two new electric car plug-in stands—one for the use of the local car share program and one for the public—in the downtown Kelowna Heritage Museum parking lot.
Fortis B.C. will pay to have the stations installed and look after them. There will be no cost to use the charging stations but drivers will have to pay to park in the city-owned lot in order to plug in.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.