New hybrid cars are coming to City Hall.

Since 2003, city officials have been upgrading their fleet of municipal vehicles to be more fuel efficient. And just this past week, plans were unveiled to add two additional hybrid vehicles to the set of cars owned by the Department of Transportation, Traffic & Parking. With a soon-to-be total of 13 alternative-fuel cars, city officials said the program, in conjunction with allowing hybrid cars free parking downtown, will lead to cost reductions and revenue gains.

“These new cars are very popular among city staff,” said Director of Traffic and Parking Mike Piscitelli, “because not only do hybrid cars encourage a greener environment, but they also fundamentally save you time in your workday because you don’t have to go get gas.”

Piscitelli said the city chose in 2005 to provide free parking to owners of New Haven-registered hybrid cars in order to incentivize the more eco-friendly practice. (Mayor John DeStefano Jr. famously swapped his Lincoln Navigator in 2005 for a Toyota Prius.) Currently, 115 New Haven residents take advantage of this service, he said. City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga added that incentives to park downtown will bring more visitors to the city’s shopping and retail districts.

Neighboring cities, including Hartford and Hamden, are also exploring environmentally friendly transportation policies by replacing old fleet vehicles with energy-efficient ones. Community Development Manager for the Town of Hamden Chris Marchand explained that the vehicles the town had been using for its police cruisers were getting only 9 to 12 mpg, and switching to more fuel-efficient cars in 2006 has been a financially savvy move.

Mayorga said that as more resources become available, the city may someday begin to upgrade police or fire vehicles.

Although Yale has phased in a similar initiative to purchase fuel-efficient cars for employee use, Director of Sustainable Transportation Holly Parker said the University has been trying to dissuade car use entirely. The Y-Bike program, launched in 2008 by the Yale Transportation Options Office, currently makes 30 bikes available for employee commuter use.

“We’ve decided to put our resources into getting people not to drive to campus,” Parker said.