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Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program

Friday, October 11, 2013

Legislation (Senate Bill 1339) signed by the Governor in fall 2012 authorizes the Air District and MTC to jointly adopt a regional commute benefit program. Pursuant to SB 1339, the Air District and MTC are developing a Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program to promote the use of alternative commute modes such as transit, ridesharing, biking and walking. The program would require employers with 50 or more full-time employees in the Bay Area to offer one of the following benefits:

  • Option 1 - Pre-Tax Option: Allow employees to pay for their transit or vanpooling expenses with pre-tax dollars, as permitted by current federal law;
  • Option 2 - Employer-Provided Subsidy: A transit or vanpool subsidy to reduce or cover the employees' monthly transit or vanpool costs;
  • Option 3 - Employer-Provided Transit: A free or low-cost bus, shuttle or vanpool service (operated by or for the employer); or
  • Option 4 - Alternative Commuter Benefit: An alternative method that would be as effective as the other options in reducing single-occupant vehicle trips (and/or vehicle emissions).

The Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program would help to reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, thus protecting public health and the climate. Despite the fact that California has the most stringent motor vehicle emission control program in the world, motor vehicles are the largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay Area. Cars emit more pollution when they are stuck in traffic, and traffic congestion in the Bay Area is among the worst in the nation.

In addition to protecting the environment and reducing traffic congestion, the program would provide tangible financial savings for employers and employees who take advantage of the pre-tax provisions in Option 1.

The program would apply to employers with 50 or more full-time employees within the boundaries of the Air District.

The Air District jurisdiction consists of nine counties, including seven counties in their entirety (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara), as well as the southern portion of Sonoma County and the southwestern portion of Solano County.

The Air District and MTC expect to issue a draft proposal for the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program in October 2013. The agencies will conduct public workshops to solicit comments on the draft proposal (see above for additional information). A final proposed program will be presented to the Air District and MTC governing boards in early 2014. The program would take effect upon approval by the governing boards of both agencies.

If the program is adopted, the Air District and MTC will notify employers and provide guidelines and employer assistance materials. Employers would have six months to select a commuter benefit option and register with the agencies.

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