Employers should stop subsidizing free parking by employees

The Bellevue Planning Commission has recently suggested encouraging employers to stop subsidizing free parking by employees.   The intention is to incentivize people to  use public transportation and other alternatives to commuting by car.   The benefits would be clear: less traffic congestion, less pollution, and a more pleasant environment.

As expected, there’s a posting on nextdoor.com calling on Bellevue residents to stop the proposed plan.  The posting encourages reader to email council members and to express their opposition to the increased parking fees.

One person said that the proposed fees would be an economic hardship on working families.

Yes, the policy to charge for parking will hit everyone, but employers have the option of paying higher salaries. Also, that argument (“It will hit working families”) can be used to oppose almost any regulation that protects people via an economic incentives. Safety regulations on cars, planes, food, and a myriad of goods result in higher prices, but those higher prices are needed to reflect the hidden costs and external costs (e.g., pollution) from the goods and services.  Countries worldwide are moving towards green economies less dependent on fossil fuels.  Our lives and communities need to be reconfigured to reflect the necessary trade-offs.

A similar proposal in 2015 was scrapped because of concerns that drivers would park at malls and would disrupt local businesses.

Since heavy traffic is detrimental to our health and quality of life, it is indeed desirable to make incentives for people to use public transportation and other alternatives to cars. Google “air pollution health” and you’ll find many scary scientific articles about how bad auto pollution is to the lungs of people living near freeways. Do you like sitting in traffic and breathing toxic exhaust? Are you OK with making nearby residents and workers breathe it?

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