Friday, December 14, 2007

Backwards Thinking

My employer has a deal with the Utah Transit Authority that allows them to provide monthly bus passes to employees that forfeit their free parking four out of five days a week. It must be time for the deal to be renewed because they did a transportation survey this week. The survey had 4 questions, but the main points were these:
  • If you drive and we offer you a free annual pass would you switch to the bus.
  • If you drive and we let you keep your parking space, would you buy an annual pass for about $200.
  • If you already ride the bus for free on our passes, would it bother you if we let other employees buy a pass and keep their parking spaces.
I think it is great that the powers that be are looking at ways to increase the use of public transportation, but I think they have it backwards. As it stands now, everyone is offered free (employer subsidized) parking, and if they are willing to give it up then they can have free public transit.

The question that that was missing was, "How many times a week would you drive and park if bus passes were free and parking cost x dollars per day or month?"

If we are serious about encouraging the use of mass transit we should reverse our thinking. We should provide transit passes to every employee for free, and then provide parking tokens, validations or punch passes at a reduced rate for those who want to drive.

For example - the $228 cost for the ECO pass comes out to a little less than $2 a day (there are ~ 240 working days in a year if you factor in holidays and vacation) Everyone could receive an ECO Pass and then the employer can create a parking voucher system that allows employees to buy 15 vouchers for $30 or $40. If they need to park frequently they can by a lot of vouchers. If not an employee can just buy one or two packs to last all year.

Another advantage to a Transit First mode of thinking is that it will minimize the number or single occupancy vehicle trips around a congested downtown area. Since a parking voucher would not normally allow for in and out privileges, and since every employee would have a pass, there would exist a strong incentive to use the bus and Trax to get around downtown for mid-day errands.

1 comment:

Fritz said...

Free parking is one of those constitutionally protected unalienable rights! :-)

Seriously, a friend of mine manages the parking garages for one of the large cities in the SF Bay Area. He commutes by bus and bike every day to work. While the city pays for about 20% of his bus pass, the city pays 100% of parking for all city employees who drive to work. He told me of co-workers who live on the light rail line who drive four blocks to work. It's ridiculous.

At his previous job, he architected the removal of free parking privileges for city employees and became Public Enemy #1. He's working on the doing the same at his current job.

It's good you're getting the dialog going in your location.