Drive A Hybrid? Your Metro ExpressLanes Discounts Are Going Away

A California "clean air vehicle" sticker is seen on the front bumper of a Toyota Prius on May 6, 2011 in San Rafael, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

New rules are now in effect for those driving low-emissions vehicles in freeway toll lanes. We'll run you through all the changes, but this is the most important thing to know: unless you have an electric car, your clean-air decal probably isn't going to get you a discounted rate on the 10 or the 110 freeways anymore.

WHAT ARE THE NEW RULES?

Check the clean-air decal on your car. If it's red or purple, you're still eligible for the 15 percent discount on tolls.

Your yellow clean-air decal isn't eligible for a toll discount anymore. Neither are the green or white decals.

Red and purple decals are commonly found on zero-emission vehicles like electric cars or vehicles that meet what is known as the super ultra-low emission (SULEV) standard. There are others, too — check this list of eligible cars.

If your decal is yellow, green, or white — common on many older hybrids — sorry, you're no longer eligible. You can still drive in the toll lanes, but you'll pay the same rate as everyone else.

No matter what kind of clean-air car you're driving, you must now set your FasTrak Flex transponder to reflect the actual number of people in the vehicle. So if you're driving solo, you have to set your transponder to 1. If you have a passenger, set it to 2. If you have two or more passengers, set it to 3+.

I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE CHANGES. AM I GOING TO GET A TICKET?

Not immediately. The California Highway Patrol says it won't start issuing citations for violations of the new rules until June.

WHY ARE THE RULES CHANGING?

Here's how Metro describes it in the FAQs on its website:

Due to an extraordinary increase in demand for the ExpressLanes, officials have had to expand congestion management strategies to an ever-increasing population of drivers, to ensure these lanes remain available and retain their value to the maximum extent possible.

Translation: The toll lanes, designed to reduce congestion, are now so congested themselves that perks to entice drivers to use them are no longer necessary.