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Could a switch to daily parking passes help reduce solo car commuting in Atlanta?

Peachtree Center MARTA Station
Peachtree Center MARTA Station in Atlanta

A Seattle Times article suggests an interesting way to reduce the number of solo car commutes: get employers to switch from monthly or yearly parking passes for employees to daily ones.

“Charging for parking by the day, not by the month, is one of the most powerful tools that employers have to spur their employees not to drive alone to work…Seattle-area employers have seen big results in keeping cars off the road.”

This makes great sense. If you buy a parking space at your place of work by the month or by the year, you’ll likely drive every day. That’s because you feel like you’re not getting your money’s worth on that parking space if you take MARTA or some other option occasionally.

But if you buy parking by the day, you’re not sinking long term costs into a space, and you’re free to commute by another method without losing money.

What do we need to do to get this going in Atlanta? It may require some large-scale partnerships between employers working with the CIDs (community improvement districts) for transit passes that allow buses and trains to better compete with car commuting.

What are some of the challenges? Many office towers are tied up with long-term leases on annual parking for workers, and those would have to be addressed. But it’s worth the effort to look into this.

There’s a lot to gain from switching commuters away from solo driving. We can reduce the number of cars brought into the city on a daily basis and also the desire for the current level of parking capacity provided to them. And with recent data showing the physical harm of driving on Atlanta’s congested interstates to be worse than what we previously believed, there’s a health benefit to getting people out of cars and off the interstates.

Take a look at this chart that shows commuting trends by year among residents of the City of Atlanta. Driving alone edged upward for several years (even during a gas-price spike) while transit use and carpooling took a slide downward (Source). That’s movement in the wrong direction for a growing city. It’s time to take ideas like daily-priced parking for office workers seriously and turn those trends around.Atlanta commuting trends

As for Atlanta neighborhoods, there’s no doubt that the ones in the city center would benefit from a lower number of car commuters (and their pollution) on the roads, as well as an opportunity to perhaps decrease the amount of space on our city streets that we allocate to cars and increase space for pedestrians and bikes.