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Company organizing to extend benefit

The maximum pre-tax amount for employees' Metrobenefits is set to return to $120 from $230 exactly two months from now, and a company that administers pre-tax employee benefits is mounting a campaign to get riders to lobby Congress to extend the benefit.

Federal workers, as well as some private employees, are provided with up to $230 on their SmarTrip cards outright, while other employees can move money from their paychecks directly to their SmarTrip cards, reducing the amount of taxes they owe. The reduction in the cap will affect both of those groups.

WageWorks, Inc. has launched PreserveTheLimit.com, which provides a tool for commuters to send a letter to their representatives encouraging them to renew the higher limit. It was temporarily extended as part of the stimulus package, bringing it into line with the existing benefit for parking. As the Post's Ann Scott Tyson has written, transit advocates--and those frustrated with paralyzing traffic in general--argue that a higher benefit for parking is akin to subsidizing gridlock by encouraging environmentally-unfriendly driving over transit.

Federal employers and others with employer-paid fares whose commutes eat up the full benefit--which, with peak-of-the-peak fares to outer stations plus parking fees isn't hard to do--will take a direct hit of $1,320 annually to their bottom lines when the benefit expires. Those who move that amount pre-tax will pay higher taxes--WageWorks says more than $500 a year.

In the Senate, the bill is S. 322, introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

WageWorks' Web site says its "management team includes the people who helped write the legislation that brought Commuter benefits into being." Many large companies contract with it to administer pre-tax health, commuter and other benefits for its employees, and the more incentives there are for companies to implement such plans, the more business WageWorks stands to do.

What kind of transit benefits does your employer offer, and how much is delivered to your SmarTrip card each month? Do the benefits offered make or break how you decide to commute? Should the federal government pay benefits in full, or only offer the pre-tax option? Should the increased benefit be extended--or is it time to reduce the parking benefit? Sound off in the comments.

By Luke Rosiak  | November 1, 2010; 10:23 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Congestion, Metro, Metrobus, Transit, Transportation Politics  | Tags:  Smartbenefits  
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Comments

I think this will make people realize that the fare hike has really affected people in this area.

I don't know what percentage of Metro riders are Feds but I think its a large number. They did not feel the pain that the fare hike has caused many others who either pay 100% out of their own pocket of with pre-tax dollars.

Since I pay my own way, this has resulted 20% increase in my expenditures for work transportation.

I hope that the limit is brought to the original level and maybe then people will lobby metro control costs rather than raising fares.

Posted by: yell53 | November 1, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Why should I subsidize these folks?

Posted by: jckdoors | November 1, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me jckdoors but not all of us receive a subsidy. Most of us have to pay our own way and aren't just handed money for our commute every month.

Posted by: Razor04 | November 1, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

GIVE ME MONEY

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 1, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The transit benefit and the parking benefit should be the same. Why should parking be twice the benefit amount as transit?

Posted by: bmp246 | November 1, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"Why should parking be twice the benefit amount as transit?"

To give an incentive for the option whose environmental cost is much lower.

Posted by: DOEJN | November 1, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Oops, misread the question. I would delete my comment if I saw an option to do so. Sorry about that. :-[

Posted by: DOEJN | November 1, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

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