Data Shows Spike in Washington D.C. Area Hybrid Ownership

By dancurranjr On March 17th, 2009

Washington Prius PHEVThe number of hybrid vehicles in the Washington region has jumped dramatically, according to preliminary data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Northern Virginian communities led in sheer numbers with 24,635 hybrids registered in 2008, according to the draft report. But suburban Maryland’s share of registered hybrid vehicles grew faster, quintupling since 2005 from 2,640 to 13,486. Because the report has not been finalized, hybrid numbers for the District are not yet included.

Hybrids have been a popular alternative in the D.C area — even before gas prices spiked to record highs last summer — in part because Virginia officials let the vehicles use high-occupancy vehicle lanes for several years even if they carried only one person. Other vehicles had to carry two, sometimes three people, to travel in the faster-moving highway lanes.

“People sick and tired of the gridlock went out and purchased the hybrid vehicles to take advantage of the HOV lanes,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.

But as the lanes became too crowded, Virginia’s Department of Transportation scaled back the program, letting only certain hybrids — and only those with particular Virginia license plates — into the special lanes.

Northern Virginian jurisdictions continue to have a higher concentration of hybrid vehicles than the local Maryland suburbs. But fewer than 2 percent of residents have the vehicles in either area.

Still, the D.C. metropolitan area ranks 10th nationwide for hybrid popularity, according to R. L.Polk & Co., an industry research group. This region and Charlottesville, Va., are the only metropolitan areas to crack the top 10 of per capita hybrid ownership that aren’t on the West Coast.

And this comes even as more people have turned away from driving. The American Public Transportation Association said Monday that Americans broke a 52-year record in 2008 with the greatest number of public transit trips taken, as vehicle miles traveled fell 3.6 percent for the year.

However hybrid sales, along with all vehicle sales, have slowed as the economy has faltered. They peaked nationally in 2007, according to R. L.Polk & Co. Then In January, the group says, hybrids sales dropped nationwide by more than 30 percent, though they fared better than other vehicles.

SOURCE: D.C. Examiner

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