SEP 18, 2017
There’s no shortage of conflicting priorities between the federal and city governments, ranging from the life-threatening to the seriously wonky. Tax subsidies for parking are decidedly in the latter category, but they really dohave a big impact on urban life.
A new report from TransitCenter lends some statistics to show just how big that impact really is: Commuter benefits programs (also known as tax subsidies) for drivers—or rather, parkers—cost the U.S. $7.3 billion each year,add about 820,000 commuters to the road, and result in an extra 4.6 billion miles driven annually.
The effect is most pronounced in central business districts,where even a small increase in cars at peak times can lead to severe congestion. And because parking tends to be most expensive in these downtowns, where there are high concentrations of high-income jobs, wealthier people naturally stand to get the most value from these programs.
“There’s no logic in paying people to drive to work in the most congested downtowns, at the most congested times of the day,” says Steven Higashide, an author of the report.
Indeed, the commuter parking benefit is even at odds with the federal government’sstated goals fortransportation and smart growth: they significantly increase traffic and pollution, and encourage valuable urban land to be used for cars. And while some cities and states have their own transit benefits programs that provide subsidies for commuting patterns other than solo driving, they’re far smaller, totaling just $1.3 billion in annual subsidies.