DC Council Votes Unanimously for Flexible Commuter Benefits
On April 7, 2020, the DC Council unanimously voted to support flexible commuter benefits! The law, promoted by CSG and our supporters, will give workers the option to walk, bike and take transit to work using the value of an employer-subsidized parking space.
The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act will allow employees who are offered a free or subsidized parking space to exchange the benefit for a transit benefit (with cash to make up any difference in value), for cash if they walk or bike to work, or for an enhanced health care benefit.
This bill will lead to more sustainable commuting. It will mean fewer vehicles on the road, which reduces traffic congestion, speeds up buses, and leads to fewer carbon emissions. Get the details here.
This decisive victory would not have been possible without the advocacy of supporters like you, so thank you for contacting your Councilmembers and advocating for these changes. While nonessential commutes remain on hold for the time being, workers in DC will soon be incentivized to enjoy a more sustainable ride to work with the new option to cash out their parking benefits.
Winning this bill will help us build a more equitable and sustainable DC. It would not have been possible without a sustained push by CSG and our allies and activists.
For Immediate Release
April 7, 2020
Contact: Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth
T. 202-675-0016, www.smartergrowth.net/parkingcashout
Advocates Cheer DC Council’s Unanimous Vote for Flexible Commuter Benefits
Employees will be eligible for walk, bike, transit commute benefits equal to an offered parking benefit
The Coalition for Smarter Growth celebrated today the success of its three-year campaign for flexible commuter benefits. “We are thrilled that today the DC Council voted unanimously for the Transportation Benefits Equity Act (B23-148). This new law will allow an employee who is offered a parking benefit by their employer to use the equivalent value of the parking subsidy for a transit, walk, or bike commute,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
“This bill incentivizes more sustainable commuting as commuters return to work on the other side of the current crisis. The importance of bicycle transportation has emerged in the crisis as an alternative to other modes, and this new law will help boost this option,” said Cort. Once workers can return to their daily routine, the new law will give many employees the opportunity to exchange a parking space for a bike (or walk or transit) commute. This could push DC’s current 18% walk and bike to work rate even higher, helping to reduce traffic congestion, pollution, and crashes.
“We have worked on this issue for a number of years, with dozens of meetings, outreach to the community, and extensive negotiations. The final legislation involved many compromises. However, the core of the bill is intact, and will start making a difference with most employers who offer subsidized parking,” said Cort.
The Transportation Benefits Equity Act requires employers who provide free or subsidized parking to employees to offer those same employees alternatives that include:
- Employer-paid transit benefits;
- Taxable cash for employees who walk, bicycle, or ride in a carpool to work, or who take transit (where cash would make up any difference between the value of the parking and transit cost);
- Increased employer contribution to an employee’s healthcare benefit;
Employers also have the option to:
- Develop a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to reduce vehicle commute trips toward the moveDC goal of 25% or less of employees’ commute trips made by car or taxi (assisted by and approved by DC Department of Transportation);
- Pay a sizable Clean Air Compliance fee to support TDM measures for each parking benefit offered;
- Cease subsidized parking.
The law includes the following exemptions:
- Employers that currently own the parking used for employees are exempt from this law.
- Existing leased parking: if an employer has an existing lease for parking provided to employees, the employer must comply with the new rules at the end of the current lease.
- Employers that do not provide subsidized parking are exempt.
- Employers with 20 or fewer employees are exempt.
One of the largest compromises given to employers was the full exclusion of currently owned parking. This means that essentially all major institutions, like universities, are likely to be exempt. While some of these institutions also lease parking, the bill exempts them if they are running shuttles to leased parking lots half a mile or more away, or if they have a Campus Plan with a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Plan already approved by DC Department of Transportation.
“The bill will provide flexible commute benefits to many downtown workers, likely reducing rush hour traffic. This can reduce congestion, speed up buses, cut pollution, and even reduce crashes,” said Cort. “It will keep DC in the forefront of cities implementing more sustainable transportation.”
Photo credit: Elvert Barnes, Flickr
For several years, we’ve been working on a bill at the D.C. Council for flexible commuter benefits. The bill would let anyone who gets a parking benefit from their employer to put the equivalent value towards their biking, bus, Metro, or walking commute. It’s a change that would give D.C. workers more flexibility and take cars off the road – at no additional cost to employers.
We are now at a political crossroads. To advance the bill out of the Council committee, we need one more vote – either Councilmember McDuffie or Todd (we’ve already got Councilmembers Cheh and Allen). Please help us encourage these Councilmembers to support the bill. Show your Councilmember that his constituents are paying attention and want flexible commuter benefits!
What’s in the bill?
The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act 2019 Bill 23-148 builds on the existing pre-tax transit benefit employers offer to employees at no cost. This bill requires that if an employee turns down a parking space offered by their employer, they would be provided the equivalent value for an alternative commute benefit – like riding transit, walking or bicycling.
B23-148 is largely the same as last year’s bill, applying to employers with 20 or more employees that choose to subsidize employee car parking. One change in the reintroduced bill exempts employers that own their parking spaces. While the Coalition for Smarter Growth is disappointed in this provision, overall, B23-148 is an important bill to reduce traffic and pollution, encourage more sustainable commuting, and give employees better transportation choices.
To win this groundbreaking commuter benefits bill, we need you! As a constituent of Ward 4 Councilmember Todd, let him know that you to support this bill.
Want to do more? Call Councilmember Todd‘s office 202-724-8052 and politely tell their staff (or leave a voicemail) that you support the commuter benefits bill (Bill 23-148).
On February 19, 2019, D.C. Councilmembers Charles Allen and Mary Cheh reintroduced the parking cash-out bill, B23-148. This bill will require employers that subsidize parking for an employee’s commute to offer a transit benefit of equal value, or provide cash. It doesnt impose a cost or a new benefit, it simply lets an employee choose to use an employer-provided commute benefit for something other than driving and parking.
What’s the next step?: voting it out of the Transportation & Environment committee and into the full Council. Councilmembers Todd (Ward 4), and McDuffie (Ward 5) have not yet said if they will support the bill. If you are a business owner or constituent, let your councilmember know you support this sensible bill to let an employee use an employer’s parking benefit for an alternative commute.
Here are the options an employer can provide as an alternative to employees for a parking-only subsidy:
- transit benefit of equal value to parking subsidy
- cash of equal value to parking subsidy
- increased health coverage benefit
- cease to offer parking subsidies
- Transportation Demand Management Plan that helps achieve the moveDC plan goal of under 25% commute trips by car or taxi
The bill has one major change: it exempts parking that is owned — rather than leased or paid for — by an employer. While we are disappointed in this exemption, we still believe the bill covering employers that lease or pay for employee commuter parking will have important benefits. These benefits include: reduced traffic congestion (especially in downtown); increased bus speeds; increased transit, walk, and bike commutes; reduced greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions; and fewer traffic crashes. View the factsheet here, or learn more about the campaign here.