Lincoln Puts Neighborhood Electric Vehicles on the Road

The City of Lincoln won an Award of Excellence in the Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation category of the 2006 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information, visit

With its population expecting to hit approximately 50,000 residents by 2010, the City of Lincoln’s Department of Public Works had to address the following concerns: 

  • Accommodate rapid growth and a new urban village lifestyle;
  • Increase energy efficiency and improve air quality; and
  • Provide a better quality of life for its aging community.

The city was confronted with the conflicting interests of providing continued mobility to aging drivers while promoting a safe driving environment for all drivers. Residents in the Sun City Lincoln Hills community were driving golf carts for local transportation and using Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs). Ideal for local trips, NEVs are small, electric vehicles that have limited range and can travel up to 25 mph. While they may look like golf carts, they are actually motor vehicles requiring a driver’s license, registration and insurance. For seniors, NEV commutes reduce the risk of high-speed accidents.

Federal regulations permit NEVs to travel only on roadways with posted speeds of 35 mph or less. With several roadways carrying traffic at higher speeds and approximately 10,000 age-restricted adults, the Sun City Lincoln Hills community requested that the city expand the area in which they could drive their NEVs.

Meeting Three Challenges

The first challenge was to provide the aging community a means to increase independence and mobility while ensuring safety for the traveling public.

The second challenge was the lack of existing legislation to allow flexibility in planning for NEV use within city limits. The State of California has golf cart legislation and the City of Lincoln was very supportive of the golf cart community concept; however, its expansion beyond the confines of the Sun City Lincoln Hills development was constrained by a lack of appropriate California law.

The third challenge was that no striping, signage or pavement-marking standards exist for NEVs on public roads in California. If the City of Lincoln were to expand the travel area of NEVs, new state-level legislation would be required to provide the needed flexibility and ensure safety.

Developing the Plan

To encourage all its residents to use NEVs as a local mode of transportation, both now and in the future, the city initiated development of a NEV Transportation Plan in 2003 and took the following steps to expand the NEV travel limits:

Step 1. A separate NEV lane needed to be established. The Lincoln City Council drafted legislation (Assembly Bill 2353) in 2004 that would provide the city with flexibility in planning for NEV use within city limits. The City of Lincoln NEV Transportation Plan was approved in summer 2006.

Step 2. The city met with Caltrans District 3 to request a lowering of the speed limit from 55 mph to 35 mph on a 400-foot stretch of State Highway 193 within Lincoln city limits. The city received sup-port from Caltrans for “experimental” signage, striping and pavement-marking standards. The proposed experimental standards were brought to the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) and were approved for use in the City of Lincoln on July 28, 2005.

Step 3. The city shared the vision of the NEV Transportation Plan with land developers in Lincoln, who are now including NEV charging stations in all new commercial centers.

The Plan in Motion

In 2004, the California Legislature passed AB 2353. This law allows Lincoln and the adjoining City of Rocklin to establish an NEV Transportation Plan within their city limits. The state Legislature intends to develop a NEV transportation plan that best serves the transportation needs of the individual cities, providing physical safety for drivers and having the capacity to accommodate NEV drivers of every legal age and range of skill.

As a result of the city’s efforts, citizens now enjoy increased mobility, greater use of public transit, reduced travel costs, improved air quality and community cohesion. In addition, this project has received tremendous public and community support.

The City of Lincoln has paved the way for others to provide an exciting alternative to traditional automobile travel. With CTCDC-approved experimental standards and AB 2353, existing communities within Lincoln can easily be retrofitted for expanded NEV routes.

NEVs are already circulating within the city, and businesses have begun to accommodate NEV transportation by providing special parking and charging stations. Additional benefits include: 

  • NEVs have safely been used in California since 1991 with no reported fatalities.
  • NEVs are great for transporting kids to school, shopping and making other neighborhood trips.
  • NEVs are ideal for teenage drivers who need transportation to and from school and related activities, reducing teenage driving fatalities.
  • NEVs provide mobility for people who cannot drive an automobile and represent freedom and ease for aging drivers.
  • NEVs provide for a more cohesive community due to their limited travel range.
  • NEVs meet the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ blueprint goals by encouraging local shopping, which supports local businesses.
  • NEVs are environmentally friendly. A NEV consumes less than one-fifth of the energy used by an automobile.
  • Powered by renewable, natural resources, NEVs are affordable. A 2002 report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation calculated that NEVs cost an average of $0.025 per mile to operate.
  • One of this country’s primary goals is to reduce our dependence on petroleum. NEVs help achieve that goal by being 100 percent electrically powered with an energy efficiency equivalent to 150 miles per gallon.
  • With more than 200 NEVs in the City of Lincoln, this NEV presence equates to a savings of approximately 6,600 gallons of gasoline per year and an annual emission reduction of about 720 pounds.

Contact: John Pedri, director of public works, City of Lincoln; phone: (916) 645-8576; e-mail:

This article appears in the February 2007 issue of Western City
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