Councilmen Jim Graham and Phil Mendelson co-introduced the “Clean Air Act” this month which would levy a $25 per month fee on any employee garage or surface lot parking space “used by a person … to have access to employment.” The idea is that these costs will be passed on to employees and will encourage them to rethink their transit options. Though some fear there is an ulterior motive.
If it looks like a commuter tax and it quacks like a commuter tax, it's probably a commuter tax.
This doesn't quack like a commuter tax (it only taxes people who drive to work and it doesn't matter where they drive from), but still this law does have flaws. Richard Layman is concerned that the legislation is piecemeal and that the money goes to the general fund, though the Times states that "The revenue would be directed toward air-quality improvement and traffic programs." Others have pointed out
It's hypocritical on the DC Council's part to propose this bill without eliminating all free parking for DC government employees first.
The basic idea is good, as any "High Cost of Free Parking" fans will attest. In some ways its the inverse of the bicycle commuter act - taking money from drivers instead of giving it to cyclists. Still, I want to know what EXACTLY will be done with the money - planting trees, alternative energy credits, transit improvements (and it better clean the air), bike sharing expansion, what?
And as others have pointed out, it has to be passed on to employees in some direct way. Either employees pay it themselves; or the employer pays it but is required to offer an equivalent amount of money to those who don't drive ("You can either have a free parking pass or a $25 a month Alternative Transportation Bonus - you're call"). That way there is a direct connection between the choice to drive and the cost. I think a law like this could see a modest increase in biking. High gas prices do.