A proposal being put forth by the DC Council will further incentivize workers to abandon their single occupant vehicles for more sustainable means of getting to work, mostly biking, walking and transit. The goal? To get 75% of commuters using sustainable forms of transportation.
According to a March article in the Washington Post, the DC Council will be one of the first major metropolitan areas to adopt an enforceable program that brings equal benefits to commuters who
choose to leave their cars behind and take alternative modes to work. Employers who offer free parking will be required to offer transit benefits to employees, thus encouraging them to abandon their single occupant vehicles.
According to the Post article, Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the lead sponsor of the bill, contends:
The change… would address a fairness issue for the workers who sometimes turn down a valuable perk because they don’t drive or who are forced to take it because otherwise they can’t get the benefit any other way.
The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2017 is one response to growing criticism that historically commuter benefits for drivers are better than those available to people who take other modes of transportation. For instance, a few years ago, transit agencies including Metro fought for parity in transit and parking in the federal commuter benefits program, which three years ago gave commuters the option to spend up to $130 on public transit pretax vs. $250 for parking. That started to change in 2015, and this year the cap for the transit benefit and the parking benefit is $255 per month.
Currently, the District Department of Transportation indicates that about 40 percent of commuters drive to their place of employment. Reducing this to 25% will be a formidable task, but providing incentives, as the Council intends to do, is a proven method in energizing commuters to change their behavior.