Paying Employees To Not Drive In Washington, DC

Donald Shoup pointed out many years ago that if companies pay the costs of parking for their employees, a common fringe benefit (and an expensive one, at that), those employers are essentially giving “an invitation to drive to work alone.”

Shoup continues to explain that it is time to level the playing field and has been promoting a policy called “parking cash out” for over a decade. The good news is a new DC bill titled “Transportation Benefits Equity Act” includes just this, as The Washington Post reports.

In a 2005 report for the American Planning Association [PDF], Shoup explains: “Free parking thus helps explain why 91 percent of commuters drive to work and why 93 percent of their vehicles have only one occupant.”

Washington, DC, councilmembers Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, and Brianne Nadeau introduced the new bill to try to stimulate healthier urban choices and reward those who make such choices, which benefit broader society.

The Wash Cycle reports that the bill they introduced will “pay a lot of DC workers to bike or walk to work,” which “would make commuter benefits fairer, but more importantly, smarter in that they would reduce pollution and congestion; improve land use and health; and make roads safer.”

The Washington Post focuses on the issue at the heart — fairness of choice. “I can much more easily rationalize hopping in my car and driving downtown when I got a free parking spot,” said Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), a lead sponsor of the bill. “But if my employer says, we are going to give you a parking spot or we can give you transit benefits or cash if you bike to work, then I have the flexibility to make the choice that is best for me.” The change, he said, would address a fairness issue for the workers who sometimes turn down a valuable perk because they don’t drive.

Along with this, perhaps it is time to introduce a bill that requires all parking lots to be covered by solar panels.

Images via Parking Cash Out [PDF]

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