I’ve only lived and worked in southern Maine for two and a half years so paying for parking to go to my job is a very new concept for me.

It was honestly not something I ever gave much thought to until coming here. My mentality was that if a job wants me there every day they’re not going to make it so I have to pay to be there.

Then I started working here and it was a shock to the system. I remember looking at one tiny studio apartment while hunting back in 2019 and one place downtown just far enough away from work also charged for parking. I downright refused to pay $200 a month to have my car in two different places.

I am lucky enough to not be considered low-income.

What is low-income? Well, when it comes to parking, a single individual would have to make less than $39,100, according to Bangor Daily News.

If you meet this threshold or are part of a four-person family household and make less than $55,850 per year, you qualify for Portland’s “Park and Work” program.

When I first saw this article I was ecstatic. I had no idea this program even existed, much less for the last decade.

Since the pandemic and so many jobs suffering the parking-to-work issue has been on my mind a lot. Why would someone want to punch in each day knowing they’re losing $2-$3 just to be there?

The Park and Work program works like this, those considered to be low-income workers are limited to parking in one of the two city-owned garages on Spring Street and Elm Street which are $3 an hour.

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Workers are given a stamp book to use at the garages to cover their parking. One BIG caveat, however, workers are limited to using two stamps a day and each stamp is only worth 3 hours. For many people including a lunch break, that’s 3 hours short. If the employer isn’t paying the difference as a benefit, it’s on the worker to pay.

Does this help? Absolutely. Is it good enough? Absolutely not, in my personal opinion. It's a start. I don’t think companies should be forced to pay for parking by any means. In a perfect world, I think it is a benefit that shows workers that you value them. One that should be implemented. The way I see it, if someone is working in the city, giving 40 hours a week to the local economy, the city should provide a worker parking pass. I’d even compromise with an annual fee for the pass to help offset the burden on taxpayers. (Note: The program is run by the nonprofit Portland Downtown and funded by City Hall according to BDN.)

Let’s do better by our workers. Things are difficult enough these days to worry about simply getting to one’s job. Not to mention how many downtown businesses are suffering because people can’t find places to live close by so they’re struggling to fill positions. Taking care of the parking burden would not only help the workers but businesses too.

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