Senate Fails to Extend Transit Commuter Tax Benefit

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):

The transit benefits train has left the station. Photo: ##

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.)

10 thoughts on Senate Fails to Extend Transit Commuter Tax Benefit

  1. Thanks for reporting on this.  Until we change fundamentally how we structure and support transit, these kind of invisible subsidies of private automobile travel and disadvantaging of transit will continue.  Getting information out about it is a crucial early step.  Again, thanks.

  2. Transform America is doing a great campaign right now, making it easy to contact your reps in Congress.  Otherwise, this is an invisible issue to people, unfortunately.  Thanks to Streetsblog for reporting this

  3. In the minds of most of these politicos, transit just isn’t legitimate. Driving is the way that “real people” get to work.

  4. Bike benefits for federal workers are even more pathetic – $20 per month.  If you take the metro once a week when it rains, it’s worth it to get the metro transit benefit (costing everyone more).  This needs parity too – even with transit benefits!

  5. Maybe congress just wants you to move close enough to work where you can spend less than $125 to get to work and home via public transit.  Or maybe they want you to pay for some of the commute to your job yourself.

    Can anyone actually drive to work and park for under $125 a month?   I doubt this change is going to fill the streets with new drivers.

  6. My mistake!   I thought federal employees received this as a benefit, not just a limit on tax-free public transit.  Why would they limit the pre-tax transit amount?

  7. In Illinois almost half of every dollar I spend to ride the Metra is matched by our generous taxpayers. The $230 pre-tax benefit is just icing on the cake. Keep it rollin!!

  8. In Illinois OVER half of every dollar spent to build/repair/maintain the interstate and highway road system is taken from the the pocket of the generous taxpayers regardless of whether the taxpayer uses the highways/interstate at all. USERS (autos/trucks/intercity buses) don’t get a free ride but CLOSE!

  9. I would like to see how Congress voted over this. Who would vote to put further expense on an already struggling economy. Most of us in the middle & lower class tiers have not received raises from their employers for 3 years due to the struggling economy. We are lucky to be employed period. So why should we be further taxed? This is baffling and I would love to see who voted for this reduction. I will go on a campaign to make sure they are not voted into congress next term. So disgusted.

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Congress Expected to Level Tax Benefit for Transit and Car Commuters

A federal policy that has encouraged Americans to drive to work instead of taking the bus or the train won’t tilt the playing field toward car commuters so much. A bill that extends provisions of the tax code will permanently set the maximum transit commuter tax benefit at the same level car commuters get for parking expenses. Both classes of commuters can now […]