updated 1/16/2006 10:24:44 AM ET 2006-01-16T15:24:44

Utah’s largest is joining a small, but growing, list of municipalities nationwide that offer free parking as an incentive for people to buy fuel-efficient vehicles.

Salt Lake City is offering free metered parking to residents whose vehicles get 50 miles per gallon, have low emissions or are powered by an alternative fuel. Friday was the first day permits for the program were issued.

Utah already offers an income tax credit of up to $3,000 for residents who buy clean fuel vehicles and some gas-electric hybrids. It also allows those vehicles to use high occupancy vehicle lanes.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said providing free parking would further encourage use of those vehicles.

“It’s yet another piece of the puzzle,” Anderson said.

Salt Lake City joins New Haven, Conn., Fresno, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M., in the free parking meter program. In the past year, Austin, Texas, also approved a green vehicle incentive that provides $100 in free parking.

Commuters in Baltimore who use low emissions vehicles can also buy parking passes at city-owned garages at a discounted rate.

In Utah, about 3,500 vehicles will qualify for the free meter program, said Dan Bergenthal, city transportation engineer.

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