The Senate has voted to extend the payroll tax cuts – for two months – but didn’t act on a measure to maintain parity between the commuter parking and transit benefits. This means transit riders will get their pre-tax benefits cut in half come January 1st, while those who drive to work will see a small jump in how much the government subsidizes their parking expenses. As Steve Davis of Transportation For America puts it (emphasis his):
With this inaction in both chambers of Congress, the federal government is sending a message loud and clear to commuters: they’d like you to start driving to work.
This is disappointing news to many of us, no doubt.
Many in Congress don’t seem to understand what it’s like to be a daily commuter trying to get from A to B each day without breaking the bank. Transportation is the second largest household expense for many households, eating up an even larger proportional share of income for the poorest Americans. The millions who depend on transit to get to work each day shouldn’t have to pay more, and certainly not for something that also saves us energy, reduces congestion and emissions, and uses less oil.
T4America does remind us that there is still hope that the benefits will be increased within the first few months of 2012. But, for now, it’s a disheartening moment for transit users. And those who need transit the most are sure to be the ones who suffer the most as a result.
The Senate bill also requires President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline within 60 days. The House will vote very soon on whether they’ll go along with the Senate’s version or drag this political theater out a little longer. (Our bets are on political theater.)