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Reader questions free parking, fueling for EVs in public parking lots
Dear Street Smarts, Q: At the corner of Lincoln and Cedar streets, there is one of the few remaining free parking lots downtown. In that lot, is an electric car charging station and two electric car parking spaces. I suspect that is not the only location of such a station. My question is, who is paying for the cost of the electricity to charge private citizen's cars and why are the stations in a free parking lot? This means that electric car owners pay for neither the cost to 'fill up' their car nor the parking space. Additionally, the charging station is not only benefiting those car owners but it is also used regularly to charge the cell phones and other devices of many street 'business' people day and night. Thank you in advance for your response. Jim Rosenberg, Santa Cruz A: "Currently 100 percent zero emission electric vehicles get free parking anywhere downtown whether it is in a paid parking facility, at a parking meter, or in a free time limited parking lot," explained Marlin Granlund, manager of the city's parking program. Each charging station offers a four-hour time limit while electric vehicle owners charge their ride. "These reserved electric vehicle spaces are not parking spaces but are charging spaces and the vehicles that are in those spaces must be plugged in and charging to remain in the space," he said. In 2002, the Santa Cruz City Council approved the promotion to "promote alternative fuel transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Granlund continued. In October 2013, the council extended the promotion to Jan. 1, 2015, he said. "The electricity cost are also subsidized as only a public utility can charge for power usage," said Granlund. There are 12 charging stations in the downtown area and one each at the beach and Municipal Wharf. Another charging station is planned for the eastside parking lot on Soquel Avenue, he said. Pedestrian safety and EVs Every road user is responsible for the safety of themselves and others. The addition of electric and hybrid vehicles onto the road takes that safety message to the next level as those vehicles emit little to zero noise. Pedestrians have come accustomed to keeping an ear out for motorists. For example, while walking behind parked cars in a shopping center, their ears may perk up for an idling motor in anticipation that someone is going to start backing out of a parking spot. But with hybrids and all electric vehicles, there is no engine noise when it starts or idles so be vigilant in scanning the parking lot, looking for while back-up lights and illuminated brake lights. If you are an EV or hybrid driver, be on extra alert for other road users when pulling out of a parking spot or at intersections where pedestrians, and ever bicyclists, are nearby. Your environmentally friendly vehicle that is easy on gas, air pollution and the ears poses an extra danger to the most vulnerable road users, which includes visually impaired pedestrians. According to California Vehicle Code section 21963, "A totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a predominantly white cane (with or without a red tip), or using a guide dog, shall have the right-of-way." This section provides that drivers approaching visually impaired pedestrians and fail to yield the right-of-way, or to take all reasonably necessary precautions to avoid injury to this blind pedestrian, is guilty of a misdemeanor that's punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for no more than six months, or face a fine of between $500 and $1,000 -- or both.
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