Transit benefits to be cut in half without Congressional action
By Chrissy Mancini Nichols
Dec 1, 2010
This post first appeared at metroplanning.org
Today the Metropolitan Planning Council sent the following letter to the Illinois Congressional delegation, urging them to support Senate Bill S. 322 or the House’s version HR. 981.
In 2009 Congress supported millions of Chicago region workers by increasing the maximum monthly commuter expense allowance for mass transit to $230, equal to the benefit received by those who drive to work and park. Unfortunately, Congress did not make the increase permanent. Without action the limit will revert back to the pre-increase $120 limit at the end of this year.
The limit increase was a smart investment that saved the Chicago region’s 1.8 million transit riders up to $500 a year, reduced traffic congestion on our roads, promoted cleaner air, reduced reliance on foreign oil, and provided revenue for our cash strapped mass transit systems.
Reverting back to the $120 level will directly impact Chicago workers who commute on transit during an already stressed economic climate. On more than half of all Metra system zones, a monthly unlimited ride pass costs at least $120, with the most expensive pass at $217. Equity suggests that these workers should receive (at minimum) an equal benefit to those who choose to drive.
The City of Chicago, through their Climate Action Plan, calls for actions to reduce carbon dioxide in the air by 15.1 million metric tons by 2020. A key recommendation to achieve this goal is expanding transit incentives for workers and encouraging employers to adopt commute trip reduction strategies. The Plan stresses the importance of commuting via mass transit instead of single-occupancy vehicles. Keeping transit incentives in line with parking benefits does just that. Reducing the benefit gives workers who currently commute by transit a disincentive to take transit, further clogging our roads and polluting our air and simultaneously hurting employers who want to provide green incentives for their workforce.
If Congress does not act to extend or make the increase permanent, it will be letting down the millions of Chicagoans who take mass transit to work each day. Currently, there is an effort in Congress to preserve the $230 limit. We urge you to co-sponsor Senate Bill S. 322 or the House’s version HR. 981 to give commuters who take transit the same benefits from their employers as those who drive.