Registration is now open for a workshop designed to inform Downtown employers about an innovative employee benefit program that has the potential to help relieve stress in the workplace and “free-up” thousands of parking spaces in Downtown Grand Rapids.

The free April 19 workshop will provide an overview of “Parking Cash Out,” a voluntary program that empowers employees with more choice and freedom to make transportation decisions that work best for them and their families.

Under a Parking Cash Out program, companies offer their workers cash to cover commuting costs in lieu of simply providing a subsidized parking space. Given the choice between cash and a parking space, many employees will take the cash and buy a cheaper parking space or choose to carpool, take transit, walk or bike to work.

The event, organized by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., is the first in a series of Transportation Solution Workshops organized for Downtown employers and stakeholders to explore mobility benefits, programs and strategies to support their businesses and employees.

“The Chamber is committed to ensuring parking and mobility is not a barrier to business and job growth in Grand Rapids,” said Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “Employer-driven programs like Parking Cash Out can help make more efficient use of our existing public parking assets and offer interested employers greater flexibility in managing their growth.”

A Simple No-Cost Solution

Parking Cash Out programs first emerged in the U.S. during the 1990’s as large cities began to wrestle with traffic congestion, air pollution, limited parking availability and increasingly expensive parking construction costs.

The idea is new to Grand Rapids, but several employers – including Spectrum Health, MVP Health Clubs, Start Garden, CWD Real Estate and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. – now offer some form of a Parking Cash Out Program.

“We could effectively “free up” 400 spaces in our off-street public facilities if more Downtown employers provided the Parking Cash Out commuter benefit and just 5 percent of the 8,000 employees currently parking in city-owned facilities had more flexibility to find their own way to work,” said Kristopher Larson, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

“That’s the equivalent of the City building a $12 million parking garage at the standard construction cost of approximately $30,000 per space.”

Employer and employee needs vary widely. But nationally, employers offering a full Parking Cash Out Program on average find an estimated 25 percent of their employees take the cash and find alternative ways to work. They may carpool, use transit, bike, walk or even park in cheaper remote lots outside of congested areas. This is generally consistent with Spectrum Health’s local experience.

“Adopting a Parking Cash Out Program is one of the easiest and most effective moves our private sector partners can make to offer their employees more commute options while supporting the continued revitalization and growth of Downtown Grand Rapids,” said Josh Naramore, the manager of Mobile GR and Parking Services at the City of Grand Rapids.

A Free & Brief Intro to New Employee Benefit

Employers providing free or subsidized parking to employees can easily implement a Parking Cash Out Program. The workshop is designed specifically for corporate decision makers, human resource professionals and commercial real estate brokers to learn more about how Parking Cash Out Programs work.

Such programs create no new costs for businesses but, when implemented effectively, result in different community outcomes by putting more cash in the pockets of employees and empowering them to make the commute decision that works best for their individual situation.

The workshop will provide a basic overview of the “cash out” concept, insight on how to structure a program that works for individual employers and access to practitioners with real world experience implementing the employee benefit.

The 1-hour workshop will start at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Start Garden. Seating is limited. Interested employers and stakeholders can RSVP by emailing rsvp@downtowngr.org.