Metro commuters might have a chance at getting their pre-tax benefits restored to higher levels.

There is a push to extend pre-tax transit benefits for a year so that they would be in line with the benefits for parking in the surface transportation bill now before the Senate.

The pre-tax transit benefits had expired at the end of last year, allowing commuters to put only $125 a month aside for transit use. That amount had fallen from $230. Pretax parking benefits, however, rose from $230 a month to $240 a month.

The proposal would make pre-tax benefits for parking and transit equal at $240 a month.

Metro and public transportation advocacy groups have said the pretax transit benefits keep more riders on buses and trains and out of cars.

About 256,000 area employees are registered for Metro’s SmartBenefits program, which allows transit benefits to be assigned directly to SmarTrip cards. About 86,000 work in the private sector and 170,000 for the federal government.

Advocates have also expressed concern over a move to take away transit funds by cutting the amount received from dedicated gas tax revenue.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted last week to divert money from the dedicated fuel tax revenue to transit systems. Members of the American Public Transportation Association called the move a “short-sighted proposal.”

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