Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Commuter Benefit

Not many people - neither employees nor employers - are aware that the federal government has tax benefits in order to encourage employees to commute by public transit. These benefits are in the form of tax incentives for businesses to subsidize the cost of bus tickets and passes for employees that can be written off as business expenses. Likewise, these employee benefits are exempt from income tax and pretax wages can be used to purchase tickets and passes lowering the cost even further.

You can read about it by clicking here.

These 'commuter benefits' have been around for years but are now apparently threatened by cost reduction efforts in Congress. If you have a desire to contact your US representative or senator, the commuter benefits web pages provide you with a link to do so.

Locally the concept of subsidizing transportation costs has simply not captured the imagination of employers. While much is invested in parking lots and decks for employees near places of business, the idea of underwriting parking or transit costs directly is an anomaly. Employers simply don't want to do it. What they are missing of course is the obvious: it wouldn't cost them anything if they did so. In fact, it might benefit them in a variety of ways. In addition to the tax benefits that make such an expense zero to the employer, studies have shown that employees who ride transit daily have much better attendance records than those who drive. And riding transit is much less stressful than driving as well.

But locally, employers and employees simply don't think of themselves as 'commuters' as their counterparts in the 'big city' do. Traffic congestion and the availability and low cost of parking is not near enough of a disincentive for those who travel by car daily to look for alternatives.