Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon, at right) has authored H.R. 6495 – The Transportation and Housing Choices for Gas Price Relief Act of 2008. A co-sponsor is Washington’s own Rep. Jay Inslee, who’s probably the strongest member of our House delegation on these kinds of issues.
Currently, employers are able to deduct up to $115 a month from federally taxable wages for vanpool and transit pass subsidies. Meanwhile, they can deduct up to $220 a month for providing parking to that employee. This is, of course, a massive hidden federal subsidy for driving to work, well above the same provision for transit. HR 6495 would equalize this subsidy.
Blumenauer’s website has a comprehensive list of provisions, but here are some other highlights:
• Allow employees to cash-in their parking benefits to spend on other choices that better meet their needs.
• Extend the same transportation fringe benefits to bike commuters as provided for those who commute by car or transit.
• Help transit agencies cope with rising fuel prices and increasing demand by providing federal funds for fare subsidies, service improvements, fuel purchases, and technology assistance.
• Make it easier to get federal funding for streetcars by requiring the FTA to consider a Streetcar project’s contributions to land use, density, economic development, and carbon emission reductions in considering it for federal funding.
• Provide federal grants to improve communities’ transportation choices, such as travel demand management strategies, carpool or telecommuting projects, upgrades to streets to facilitate bicycle and pedestrian use, intelligent transportation improvements to reduce congestion, and car-sharing and bike sharing programs.
• Require the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to develop a standard that measures the transportation costs associated with a home’s location, enabling Real Estate agents to provide this information to prospective buyers.
I don’t have any sort of read on whether this bill is going anywhere, but this legislation is potentially transformative for land use, and for the relative viability of rail projects with respect to bus projects.