In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report entitledParking Spaces/Community Places that analyzed how communities can put parking to better use. The report warned, “inflexible parking requirements can force businesses to provide unneeded parking, wasting space and money while harming the environment.” A decade later, a different report is telling the EPA that they need to practice what they preach.
The EPA Office of Inspector General (EPA IG) found that the EPA headquarters in Washington DC and an Atlanta office paid $1.5 million over the last two years to subsidize parking for its employees. Here is the kicker. Almost half of that money went to parking spots that were unoccupied. Yes, the EPA paid $693,000 for 103 parking spots that went unused. For the DC headquarters, that is $293.42 per space per month. Unoccupied parking spaces was the single highest single category of DC headquarters’ parking costs.
The IG report also found that the $850,000 worth of parking subsidies that were being used were overly generous and contrary to the EPA’s mission. For the DC headquarters parking, the EPA paid $130 of the $293 parking spot price. This was occurring at the EPA – the agency charged with environmental policy – years after an executive order requiring federal agencies to evaluate the sustainability of commute and work-related travel and after the General Services Administration (GSA) eliminated free parking for its employees – claiming costs and environmental benefits. The EPA IG report coyly pointed this out, stating that “in light of efforts to reduce federal operating costs and the EPA’s mission to promote air quality, the agency should review its practice of subsidizing employee parking, determine whether these parking subsidy programs are justified, and reduce or eliminate the programs accordingly.”
When the IG presented their findings to the EPA, the EPA Facilities Management and Services Division (FMSD) Deputy Director responded that the EPA does not have a parking “subsidy” program but rather provides employee parking at a “discounted rate.” Chapter 6 of their D.C.-Area Transit Subsidy Guidelines is titled “Subsidized Parking.”
The IG surmised that “in an age of dwindling federal resources, the EPA’s use of taxpayer money—over $840,000 in a 2-year period—to fund employee parking may not be an effective use of federal resources and may take funds away from mission-critical public health and environmental initiatives.” The EPA headquarters and Atlanta office concurred with the recommendations and will no longer be offering subsidized parking to its employees. A small win for taxpayers.