Open letter to VTA from MTS

Mike Bullock, Board Director and Treasurer, Modern Transit Society
September 29, 1998

VTA (Valley Transportation Authority)
3331 N. First Street
San Jose, Ca 95134-1906

Subject: Parking subsidy elimination would increase transit revenue, so transit fare increase is opposed.

The Modern Transit Society believes that reducing subsidies to auto use, not transit use, should be one of society's primary goals. We would love to see the day when public hearings are held to establish a reasonable farebox return from our freeways. The amount of gasoline taxes a motorist currently pays, while driving on a freeway, is well below the amount needed so that the owners of such facilities (tax payers) receive a reasonable return on their invested capital. Charging motorists an automated toll, or fare; set by costs and reasonable investment return rates; while reducing other taxes so as to realize no net tax income change, is, to us, one obvious solution.

Never-the-less, given our current setting, the MTS understands the need to increase transit farebox returns. However, we do not support transit fare increases for two reasons. First, they will reduce ridership. Second, there are methods which are currently being overlooked that could do much more to boost farebox return, by increasing ridership.

A sure-fire method of increasing ridership is to promote the "cashout" of car parking at places of employment. This strategy is also favored by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and the Sierra Club. The fact that it is being done voluntarily at, for example, Apple Computer and General Electric shows that it is politically feasible, regardless of what some may say.

Below are two tables on cashouts. Note that the first shows that the increase in transit ridership at CH2M Hill is 1,600 per-cent! The data in the 2nd table shows that a comprehensive policy could reduce the number of cars being used to get to work by 25%! The increase in transit ridership would be enormous. This increase would thus support, on many routes, modern, electric, automated, fixed-guideway forms of transit. Farebox returns would soar.

Therefore, instead of increasing fares, would you instead please consider recommending "Actions" for the Draft County Wide Deficiency Plan that will help to bring about car parking cashout programs?

One action would be to simply explain and recommend cashouts. Also, companies that implement cashout should be allowed to use the excess parking, that would result, in profitable ways, so as to offset costs.

VTA (and other government employers) could also set an example by implementing cashout. Your Ecopass would then become a "transportation allowance", along with car parking and cash. Each employee would get the same net dollar value of allowance, regardless of how they commute. For example, if car parking is valued at $3 per day, then, each day, a bus rider would get a free bus pass (worth $2.50) plus $.50, a driver would get a free car parking space, while an employee that walked to work would get the full $3.00 in cash.

Finally, as cashouts become widespread and popular, requiring the program at all places of employment will become desirable. This will end an all-too-common economic discrimination against those that do not drive a car to work every day.

The data in the tables is taken from an article written by Patrick Siegman, "How to Get Paid to Bike to Work: A Guide to Low-traffic, High-profit Development". If you would like a copy, please call me at home (408-996-7563) and I will be happy to arrange for you to have a reprint of the 5 page article. Either I or Patrick (who lives in our area) would be willing to make a presentation to VTA regarding cashouts. For more information on cashouts, there should also be MTS letters in your BAC, PAB, and CAC files, dated late last year.

Best regards for your efforts to improve transit,

Mike R. Bullock

An Above-Average Example of a Car Parking Cashout Program

CH2M Hill is a Bellevue, Washington Engineering Firm with 430 Employees.

CH2M Hill Action: $54/Mo (1995 $'s) offered, to not drive


Before, %

After, %

Drive Alone









Bike, Walk






Financial Incentives, Impact on Parking Demand

The table [click here] shows the percent decrease in parking demand which resulted when implementing the financial incentive ($ per month in 1995 dollars).

Index of articles on cashout and parking

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