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Climate Change

Would You Trade Your Parking Benefit for Cash?

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Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on Greater Greater Washington and is republished here with permission. Individual companies have long elected to allow employees to trade their parking benefits for cash, of course, but a law that requires employers to offer the swap is a new idea. And when you think about it, it's only fair that non-driving workers who save their employers the expense of maintaining a parking spot on their behalf should share in that benefit financially — and that companies that who encourage their employees to drive through parking benefits should have to pay for what they're costing the climate. Maybe it's time for other communities to start thinking along the same lines. 

Andrew Small, Greater Greater Washington.
Andrew Small, Greater Greater Washington.
Andrew Small, Greater Greater Washington.

The DC Council voted unanimously Tuesday for a bill that would allow employees to “cash-out” free parking offered by their employer. The bill would let employees who receive free parking instead take the value in cash for transit, bicycling, or walking.

GGWash last week highlighted the details of the bill, which was introduced by Ward 6 councilmember Charles Allen with support from committee chair Mary Cheh (ward 3). The Tuesday vote was one of two required before it can become law.

“Employers are not required to provide parking to employees, but if they do, it’s an incentive to drive,” Allen said, talking about the bill at the vote.

Allen says the legislation would provide “off-ramps” for employers who choose not to offer equivalent transit and health benefits. Employers could pay a “Clean Air Compliance Fee” of $100 per month per employee offered parking benefits, cease to offer parking benefits, or set up a Transportation Demand Management plan with the District Department of Transportation to reduce the share employees commuting by car to under 25%.

The plan would not apply to parking spaces owned by an employer and would not apply to currently leased parking spaces until they renew.

Allen introduced an amendment which made a number of changes to respond to concerns from employers. One of those changes added an exemption for parking lots outside of the District or more than a half mile away from the employer’s place of business. Allen said these satellite parking spaces sometimes send shuttles to those parking lots, which effectively function more like a Metro park and ride by reducing downtown traffic.

Speaking on the amendment, Allen said, “He said, “Councilmember Cheh and I have had extensive meetings with business groups and addressed any reasonable concerns that did not gut the essence of the bill. The bill is a modest, reasonable measure to help us achieve our climate goals.”

The council will take a second vote as soon as two weeks from now. If passed, the law would go into effect on October 1, 2020.

Demand “Safe Streets for Everyone” at the National Bike Summit, hosted by the League of American Bicyclists March 15-17. Meet advocates from across the U.S. who are reshaping their communities and make your voice heard on Capitol Hill. Explore the summit here.

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