If a parking garage in DC rents out spaces, they have to pay a sales tax. But if an employer gives away the parking, they pay nothing. Yet they are still consuming space that could be used for other purposes, are still creating wear and tear on the roads and pollution. Is this fair?

Councilmembers Jim Graham, Phil Mendelson, and Tommy Wells don’t think so, and just introduced a bill to tax those spaces and devote the revenues to air quality improvements.

This is a great step toward reducing one aspect of the pervasive subsidy of driving. The Apartment and Office Building Association of Greater Washington called free parking “an added incentive to attracting and retaining employees in the District.” So is transit, but when parking is free, the scales are weighted on the side of driving.

Ideally, employers will choose to pass along the cost to the employees, or create parking cash-outs letting employees receive the cost of their parking spaces in transit subsidies or added salary. This bill adds an incentive for employers to do just that.

After passing this bill, Graham and the rest of the Council should take the next step and mandate employers provide parking cash-outs to ensure employees can make a fuller economic choice between driving and other forms of commuting. And our next President should bring Federal agencies in line.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.