Transit benefits would remain at higher levels under proposed bill

Metro riders often load their pre-tax benefits onto their SmarTrip cards. (Marlon Correa - The Washington Post)
Metro riders often load their pre-tax benefits onto their SmarTrip cards. (Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

Congress is pushing for the $245 a month in pre-tax benefits that commuters who use public transit now receive to become permanent. The benefit is set to expire at the end of the year and would then drop to $125 a month.

The Commuter Parity Act would help make the transit benefit on par with what drivers receive in pre-tax parking benefits for the long term, according to transit advocates. They have long said it is unfair that those who drive can set aside the same amount of $245 a month in pre-tax benefits but their benefits are permanent and have not decreased while bus or rail riders have had their amounts of pre-tax benefits go up and down for the last few years.

In January, Congress had approved increasing the pre-tax benefit from $125 as part of the “fiscal cliff” resolution but the bill is set to expire at the end of 2013. In 2012, public transit riders saw the cap reduced to $125 a month from $230 in 2011.

Metro had said its revenue from ridership would take a hit this year — in part because of fare hikes and the cut in transit benefits. Forty percent of Metro’s peak period travelers are federal employees whose rides are subsidized.

The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N..Y) introduced it in the Senate.

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.
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