SoCal Residents Line Up to Trade Old Cars for State Cash

More than 750 people have gotten vouchers through the Replace Your Ride program

A year into its implementation in the Los Angeles area, a state subsidy for trading up gas-guzzling cars has racked up a wait list of more than 1,500 people.

The Replace Your Ride program, which gives vouchers ranging from $2,500 to $9,500 for upgrading to various types of fuel efficient vehicles, was adopted last summer by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

As of mid-June, it had given vouchers to more than 750 people totaling about $5.36 million in value, SCAQMD spokesman Sam Atwood said. The number on the wait list, meanwhile, was more than twice that many, pending processing time and new funding.

"Who else would provide with such a huge amount of money?" Nellie Munguia, a sales manager at Anaheim Pre-Owned Cars, said. "Some people get $9,500. That's unheard of, right?"

Munguia said that when customers first heard about the new state subsidy, they wouldn't stop asking about it, prompting the dealership to become a participant in the program.

The Anaheim dealership is one of dozens in Southern California that will accept vouchers from the Replace Your Ride Program. On Saturday, the SCAQMD held an event at an Inglewood CarMax, where about 70 applicants to the program came to have their vehicle emissions tested and witness an old car being squashed for the scrapyard.

"We actually can help reduce air pollution in a big way by retiring the oldest cars that are on the road," said Coalition for Clean Air Policy Director Bill Magavern.

Statewide, only 20 percent of cars account for roughly 80 percent of automobile pollution, Magavern said. In the greater Los Angeles area, transportation from not only cars but also trucks, trains and ships account for a particularly significant portion of air pollution.

Replace Your Ride incentives vary according to the income of the applicant, their location and the type of car they're switching to. Some of the biggest vouchers are available to low-income residents who switch to hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric cars.

Atwood said there's definitely more money coming to applicants on the program's wait list, but it's not yet clear how much.

There's enough money left in the current year to serve about 700 people on the wait list, Atwood said. As of mid-June, the wait list was up to 1,900 people.

As for the rest, more funding for at least the base incentives, which go up to $4,500, should be coming later this summer.

The "Plus Up" portion, which gives additional vouchers specifically to low income residents in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, is funded by state greenhouse gas reduction funds. The allocation of that money is not currently settled, Atwood said.

Altogether, it's hard to account for every one of the applicants who are currently waiting.

"Some of those people may only be interested if they would get the highest voucher amount possible," Atwood said. "So some of those people may drop off the list."

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