How to discourage gas consumption

Letter to the Editor, submitted to the Montreal Gazette on 2008-8-28.

Many companies provide parking at no charge for their employees. This represents a subsidy, as parking spaces involve considerable costs including initial construction, drainage, paving, lighting as well as ongoing expenses such as snow removal, security, and electricity. Never mind the cost of the land, including opportunity costs.

Employees who walk, cycle, carpool, or take public transportation to work benefit not at all or minimally from this parking subsidy. The subsidy thus acts as an incentive to drive to work, with all the attendant problems in greenhouse gas production, pollution, and these days the effects of the demand for fuel pushing up food prices and contributing to massive food shortages in certain parts of the world.

I suggest that it would be not only equitable, but also good for the planet, to arrange it so that employees who drive and those who don’t are subsidized (or not) equally. A good start would be for free or reduced-cost parking to be treated as a taxable benefit.

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