Friday, June 27, 2014

Green vs White HOV decal sticker debate. Sorry Volt and Prius, no discount toll for you.

My wife drives a C-Max Energi with the Green HOV decals. I drive a Fiat 500E with the White HOV carpool sticker. They both are entitled to be in HOV diamond carpool lanes but there is one big difference. Her car, along with the Plugin Prius, Chevy Volt, and Fusion Energi are not allowed to drive on the Bay Bridge with the discounted toll of $2.50. They're suppose to pay $6 during commute time yet I see Plugin Priuses drive through the carpool toll everyday.

There is clearly confusion and no one knows. So if you are coming from Google or a search result with the phrase "Green HOV Bridge Toll", hopefully this page will set the record straight. Sorry Plugin Prius, you won't like what you will read.

People were confused because the old Caltrans 511 web page made references to white and yellow stickers. Since the yellow stickers expired, people thought that page was out-dated and assumed green stickers had the same privileges as white. This not a Green vs White HOV sticker debate, this is just the facts. Green HOV decals for plugin hybrids are not allowed to get discount toll as you will read on this page.

The California Clean Air Resource Board is the authority on this. On their FAQ, page:

White stickers are defined as ILEV cars. Meaning, PURE Electric cars meet the Federal Inherently Low Emission standards. A Volt and Plugin Prius are TZEV, Transitional zero emissions. That is the key difference and those initials and definitions are very important in the eyes of the law.

So now, you must read the actual toll pages of the various bridges and you will see, it explicity states those benefits only apply to ILEV cars.AKA White Sticker cars like my Fiat 500E, Tesla Model S, RAV4EV or Nissan Leaf.

The Golden Gate Bridge goes as far as actually stating the decal color and who gets what.

The other bridges - Dumbarton, Carquinez,San Mateo, Oakland-SF Bay Bridge use the more technical terms. This is why people are confused. It doesn't specifically say the color and they don't use the blanket term, "clean air decal qualifies." Rather, the pages are very specific to the rules that the benefits only extend to ILEV cars with decals.


All those pages have this which I highlighted.

So there you have it. All these bridges are operated by the Bay Area Toll Authority.
On their website,

  • The Bay Area Toll Authority grants reduced rate passage on the above bridges to inherently-low-emission vehicles with DMV-issued decals, such as electric cars, that use FasTrak® to pay the toll.
  • The reduced rate is the same as the reduced rate for high-occupancy vehicles and applies only during the hours when the reduced rate applies to high-occupancy vehicles.

So you can see, it is very clear what the rules are. ILEV cars like the Leaf and Fiat 500E get the discount. TZEV classified cars such as the Plugin Prius (PIP) are violating toll fare and those owners may not know it.

Both class of vehicles have the right to be in the Carpool lane but the problem is some of the toll lanes are physically isolated and the meter works on fastrak.  Once your Plugin Prius or Chevy Volt gets to the fastrak toll, you don't have the option of switching to the normal toll meter without breaking a lot traffic violations; going over white lines and physical obstructions. As the famous KRON reporter, Stanley Roberts would say, you'd be "Behaving Badly."


  1. This information is WRONG. Green and white stickers are eligible to use the carpool lanes, which is how tolls are determined, with the exception being the golden gate bridge.

    Here is the relevant text:

    So long as it is permitted by law, hybrid [that's the green sticker] vehicles displaying an eligible sticker issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles may use the carpool lanes on the bridges during designated carpool hours at the reduced rate for carpools. (

    And here it is from FastTrak:

    Yes. Qualified single-occupancy clean air vehicles are permitted to use dedicated HOV/carpool lanes in the Bay Area during designated carpool hours, if these vehicles are displaying the distinctive WHITE or GREEN decals issued by the DMV. Vehicles that meet the requirements for the WHITE decals are Inherently Low Emission Vehicles (ILEVs) that are typically certified pure zero emission vehicles (PZEV) (100% battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell) and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. Vehicles that meet the requirements for the GREEN decals generally meet the enhanced Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT PZEV) requirements, which include plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hydrogen internal combustion engine (hydrogen ICE) vehicles. For more information, click here.

    The expiration date for the WHITE or GREEN decals is January 1, 2019. As with all other carpool vehicles, single-occupancy clean air vehicles must also pay tolls when driving across the Bay Area toll bridges in an HOV/carpool lane.


    And here it is one more time, in case you're still unclear:

    21. How can I get more information about driving my hybrid vehicle in the Bay Area carpool lanes?
    With the passage of the Federal Transportation bill on August 10, 2005 and Assembly Bill 2628 (AB 2628) on September 23, 2004, qualified single-occupancy hybrid vehicles are now permitted to use dedicated High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)/carpool lanes in the Bay Area during designated carpool hours, if these vehicles are displaying the distinctive stickers issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Single-occupancy hybrid vehicles pay a reduced toll when driving across the Bay Area toll bridges in an HOV/carpool lane. Click here for more information.


    1. Did you read the links. PZEV can go in carpool lane. THe bridfge websites specifically says only ILEVs get discount toll. It is a double edge sword. Yes, they can be in that lane but they can't get the discounted toll.

    2. Your links says nothing about carpool bridge tolls. I never disputed the right to be in carpool lanes.

    3. You both may be sticker is allowed in the carpool lanes, but may not qualify for a toll discount. However, we have been driving through the tolls for the last few years with a green sticker, and it is only charging the discounted rate.
      The toll sensor would have to distinguish with a green sticker with one person or a green sticker with 2-3 people. That's their problem...