FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2017
Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth
Groups laud flexible commute benefits bill to give employees more sustainable commute options
Washington, DC – Today, DC Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Charles Allen introduced a bill to allow residents to opt for cash or transit benefits in lieu of an employer-provided parking space. DC environmental, transportation, and smart growth groups applauded the legislation.
“Enabling workers to choose a more sustainable commute is a winner for everyone. Instead of the current practice, which provides more incentive to drive, this bill allows for equal benefits to be offered to those who choose other commute modes. This bill lets workers convert an employer-paid parking space into cash and choose to walk, take transit, or bicycle rather than drive. It reduces traffic and pollution, incentivizes a healthier commute, gives workers flexibility in their commutes, and is paid for with a parking space that’s not needed,” said Cheryl Cort, the Policy Director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
More than 18 percent of DC residents walk or bike to work, but the only commute benefit offered by many employers is a parking space. This bill introduced today, named the Transportation Benefits Equity Act of 2017 [PDF of bill text], requires that if an employer provides a parking benefit to an employee, the worker can opt to take the equivalent value of the parking space, and instead walk, bike, or ride transit to work.
“Rather than a parking-only commute benefit, this gives people flexibility to choose to bicycle to work if they prefer. Why shouldn’t people who walk or bike to work be offered the same commute benefit as someone who prefers to drive?” asked Greg Billing, the Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
Workers who are offered a subsidized parking space at work are far more likely to drive than if they do not receive a commute subsidy. While half of commuters to DC jobs drive when they do not receive any kind of commute benefit, the number jumps to 85% driving and parking when given free or subsidized parking.
“This is a painless way to cut traffic congestion and pollution, while making DC’s workplaces more competitive, and rewarding workers for making healthier choices. This bill would cement DC’s status as a transportation innovator and as the number one big city in America for people who walk and bike to work,” said Payton Chung of the Sierra Club DC Chapter.
“DC is tied for the highest walk and bike to work rate in the country. With this bill, even more residents will be attracted to walking and bicycling to work, rather than driving, incentivizing the most sustainable and healthiest kind of commuting there is. We see great value to employers in improved employee health and productivity and lower health insurance costs,” said Moira McCauley of All Walks DC, a pedestrian advocacy group.
The bill builds on DC’s Commuter Benefit law, which requires all employers with 20 or more employees to provide workers with the option to use their own pre-tax money to commute by transit. The small modifications employers were required to make to their payroll systems to administer pre-tax benefits also make for very easy administration of a flexible parking benefit that employees, can choose to swap for a tax-free transit benefit, taxable cash, or a combination of the two.
The bill would require an employer who provides a parking benefit to allow workers to opt for spending the equivalent value of that benefit on transit, and/or combine with taxable cash and walk or bicycle to work.
Employers would continue to offer whatever commuter benefits they choose, including parking benefits, but would also be required to flex a parking benefit to transit or taxable cash if the eligible employee requests it.
“Many workers are attracted to DC because it’s so walkable and bikable,“ said Cort. “More than one third of households don’t own a car. With this landmark flexible commuter benefits law, DC would top the list of cities offering the most sustainable commutes for their workforce. This is good for business, good for commuters, and good for the city.”
For more information, see our fact sheet: https://www.smartergrowth.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/bill-residents-parking-cashout-fact-sheet_CJ.pdf
About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net.