When the federal stimulus package was passed two years ago, it provided one key provision benefiting transit commuters nationwide– an increase of the monthly transit benefit from $120 to $230, matching that of the parking benefit. Just around this time last year, the increase in the transit benefit was due to expire the following January had Congress failed to approve an extension. Luckily, that fate was avoided, which allowed transit commuters to reap the same tax-deductible benefits as drivers for 2011.
Unfortunately, the extension was only for this year, which brings up the matter before Congress again. If Washington doesn’t act on the benefit extension before the end of the year, drivers will be getting a higher direct federal commuting subsidy than transit users come 2012. I’m not convinced this is a good direction for the country’s transportation policy, and neither does Transportation for America:
If Congress does nothing by the end of the year, if you take transit to get to work each day you could be paying more out of your own pocket when the tax benefit for transit is cut in half. If that wasn’t enough, drivers will keep enjoying the same great parking benefit ($230) – nearly double what transit commuters will be eligible to receive. We don’t think that’s fair, and Congress needs to hear about it.
So if you spend more than $120 a month on your commute in a vanpool, train or bus, the federal government will be sending a message loud and clear: they’d like you to start driving to work, where you can get $230 for parking deducted from your paycheck tax free.
Be sure to tell Congress that slashing the transit benefit is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time. While Washington State Senators Murray and Cantwell are already strong transit allies and are likely to approve the extension, many House representatives are not and can’t be counted on to do the same.