FREAK Shots: Not Everyone Likes Free Parking

Blog reader Paul Gorbould emailed us this photo from a parking lot at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada:


Gorbould understands the good intent of the spots:

The site was recently declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, and it appears to have taken the designation to heart.

I’ve never seen a parking designation like this before — and of course, the spots (there were several) were empty. In fact, I saw no “alternative fuel vehicles” for a hundred miles in any direction. … Still, no harm in being proactive I suppose, even if the spots closest to the entrance remain empty for a few years.

Many cities, like Albuquerque, offer free parking to drivers of “hybrid, alternative-fuel, or fuel-efficient” cars. Businesses have also followed suit, reports USA Today.

But drivers of gas-only cars get annoyed, reports the USA Today article, when hybrid drivers take up the best parking spots all day, for free.

In some cases, hybrid-vehicle parking and driving incentives become counterproductive, reports The Washington Post: carpool-lane privileges for hybrid drivers, for example, have helped to clog those lanes.

Los Angeles is thinking about taking back its free parking, as concerns about the city’s budget deficit mount.

At Fossil Cliffs, the most the alternative-fuel spaces are doing is taking up space, but if gas prices stay low, they may continue to do so for an annoyingly long time.

(Send your FREAK-worthy photos here.)


Note that Hybrids are not alternative fuel vehicles - they use gas. I am not sure if a plug-in Hybrid would count. Since it has a gas engine generator in case the electricity runs out (you can only go so far on the overnight charge), it would not count either.
The interesting question is whether cars that can run on dual fuels count? Even if the driver never puts anything but gas in, they would still get to park there.
I think they need to come up with a better term.

Witty Nickname

There is a store in Houston that offers great parking for electric cars. They are usually empty unless I'm there. I drive a 2004 Saturn, but I defy anyone to tell me that it is not electric.

Justin A

Maybe even more productive would be having a special section for SUVs to park in the most remote location of the parking lot.


So a hybrid $70,000 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid that gets 20 mpg gets a free parking spot in LA than I do in my 36 mpg Honda Civic, and gets to use the carpool lane (a much larger chunk of it, physically speaking, than I would).

That's not just ridiculous. It's stupid. Very stupid.

So are the alternative fuel spots.

Does it count if I have a 1920s steam locomotive driven by burning coal?


I have an alternative fuel is carbon powered.


I'm working in Ontario right now and all the gas stations support "Alternative Fuel Vehicles" - aka E85 fuel.

So it's not that rare, just not in use the day you were there :)


I park in these kind of spots all the time with my 1994 Pontiac Bonneville. Haven't gotten a ticket yet.


I love that that they have designed a parking spot for my special alternative fuel vehicle...

A Dodge Ram 1500 CrewCab that is designed to run on E85.


LEED, the most common system for certifying "green" construction in the United States, allows a project to earn one point toward certification if you reserve 5% of the project's parking capacity for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles. For the cost of a few signs, you can get a cheap point. Much cheaper than, say, improving your building's energy efficiency. I wouldn't be surprised if this sign is a result of a similar green rating system in Canada.


They have hybrid emblems at eBay for $13. Slap one on the back of your car and enjoy the benefits of the special parking spaces. Unless the authorities are going to pop open your hood and confirm your drive train, you should be able to get away with it. Just depends on your personal moral tolerance for trickery :)

Here's the link:


Hey, I have an idea! Make the polluting cars drive further and longer around the parking lot looking for a place to park, while the up-close parking spaces are largely empty.

Of course, you could simply pull your F-350 Ford Pick-Up into the space (if it would fit), rationalizing that you ARE using alternative fuel--after all, gasoline is an alternative to...nuclear, coal, solar, fuel cells, hydrogen, and so forth.


I drive a '95 Corolla that still gets 28-30 MPG with proper regular maintenance. How many people would love to get the new hydrids if they can afford them? A million, 3 million? The thing is this is discrimination against people who have less resources. The hybrids get preferential treatment in using car pool lanes, parking, etc. which use the same roads that we all pay for. It is like tax cuts for the rich!


DrS, others feel the same way when on their motorcycles (not that there is a lack of parking or special incentives in central IL, where it would affect me). Hybrid SUVs get free/priority parking while the guy getting 50+ mpg on his motorcycle doesn't.

Hopefully the increase in motorcycle and scooter sales will continue when fuel prices go back up and more priority spaces will be made for us.


This is discrimination in one of its grossest forms. Additionally, as someone else already noted, this forces polluting vehicles to keep driving in search of a space to park while these reserved spots remain empty.


If the costs of one fuel versus another were properly captured, this would be totally unnecessary. Consumers would do the math and select the vehicle that works best for them. Selective parking spots are simply a cumbersome and haphazard way to raise costs for non-alternative fuels.


What should happen is anyone over X MPG should get the space, you can have a gas guzzling hybrid theoretically, and you can have an efficent car. The fact that it's just labeled "alternative fuel" makes me laugh. Diesel is an alternative. As is E85 neither of them is radically better. And technically unleaded gas is an alternative to leaded, and vice versa, even higher grades of gas would be alternatives. So go ahead and park there.

Why is give benefits depending on the cars you drive ok in people's mind? If we gave benefits due to what race you were it would be racism, for sex it would be sexism, for money you make it's class discrimination, but hey it's ok to give a benefit to someone who spends money in a certain way?

L Nettles

Most alternative fueled vehicles will spend a disproportionate amount of their time parked.


@2,7 & 8
It's easy to laugh about driving inefficient cars.
I'm sure there are other people who appreciate the irony of a country who pays for both sides of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Alternative to what? ;-)


I think Mark is right here. The Joggins building is LEED (we have LEED in Canada to) certified, so it probably has to do with the LEED point system.