The Washington Post

Will a cut in transit benefits change your commute habits?

(Robert Thomson / The Washington Post) (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

Could a cut in the federal transit benefit mean more cars on area roads? No one is yet certain, but this piece by The Post’s Paul Duggan  takes a good hard look at the financial impact on riders, many of them federal employees who receive the monthly transit subsidy. While elected officials have voiced support for raising the federal transit benefit for public transportation (it went up this year for parking), it could take a bit of time as Congress quibbles over larger budget matters.

As of Jan. 1, the subsidy designed to encourage federal workers to take public transportation dropped to $130 from $245.

Stephen Crim, an urban planner with Arlington County government, ran the numbers to see how much commuters who previously received the benefit would have to pay under the new amount.

According to Crim’s report, when the maximum direct transit subsidy was $245, the typical worker exiting at the Pentagon station paid nothing out of pocket for Metro fares each month unless he or she commuted from Rockville or Shady Grove. On average, for workers headed from those two stations to Pentagon, the monthly, out-of-pocket expense was $17 and $1, respectively.

But the reduction would mean that workers traveling to Pentagon from one of 44 stations could find themselves paying as much as $116 a month out of pocket. Those coming from Rockville, for example, would pay $132 more; those from Glenmont, $106; and those from Vienna, $88.

The reduction also has Metro officials concerned. In 2012, when the transit subsidy fell to $125 amid a spending fight on Capitol Hill, ridership declined by nearly 3 percent. The result? A $9.5 million revenue loss, the transit agency said. Forty percent of Metro’s peak period travelers are federal employees whose rides are subsidized.

Not sure how the reductions will affect your out-of-pocket costs? Try this handy tool for calculating what the change will mean for you.

We’re curious: How will the cut in the federal transit benefit affect your commuting habits? Would the increase in the parking benefit be enough to get you to drive instead of take public transportation? Post your thoughts below.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.



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