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‘Free’ employee parking is actually costing the climate and commuters » Yale Climate Connections

Many businesses pay for space in a garage or lot so employees can park near the office.

But Allen Greenberg of the Federal Highway Administration says when employers provide free parking, it comes at a cost to the climate and other commuters.

“They are encouraging employees to drive to work in congested cities and largely to block buses filled with low-income workers who are also trying to get to work, who are using the infrastructure much more efficiently,” he says.

So some places such as Washington, D.C., and California now have what are known as “parking cash-out” laws.

The details vary, but these laws essentially require that if companies pay for employee parking, they must offer equivalent benefits to non-drivers.

That can take the form of a public transit pass or — for employees who walk or bike to work — cash equal to the market value of a parking spot.

Greenberg says employees might use that cash for a new bicycle or put it towards rent so they can afford to live close enough to walk to work.

“What we’re talking about here is not a new cost … not a burden, but rather an opportunity,” Greenberg says.

By encouraging people to get out of their cars, parking cash-out programs can help reduce traffic and carbon pollution.

Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman / ChavoBart Digital Media

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