In DC, more than half of residents walk, bike, or take transit to work. But our commuter benefits don’t match up. Right now, when an employer offers a commuter subsidy benefit, it might only be for driving and parking.
A new bill in the DC Council for flexible commuter benefits would change that. Instead of only a parking benefit, flexible commuter benefits give employees the choice to use the parking benefit or take the cash equivalent of a parking benefit to get to work another way, whether that’s transit, walking, or by bicycle.
The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act, introduced in March by Councilmember Charles Allen, will build upon the existing commuter benefits law in DC by providing employees more choice and flexibility in their commute.
Under the bill, employers who already provide a parking benefit* will be required to also offer the following:
- Employer-paid transit benefit. If the transit benefit is less than the value of the parking benefit, then the employee receives the balance in taxable cash up to the value of the parking benefit.
- Employer-paid, tax-free bicycle commuting benefit up to the federally allowable $20/month expense reimbursement, plus taxable cash up to the value of the parking benefit.
- Taxable cash for employees walking to work, equal to the value of the parking benefit.
If an employee prefers the parking benefit offered by their employer, they can keep it.
This bill has the potential to create a national model for promoting sustainable commuter benefits.
Giving commuters more choice in how to get to work has shown to decrease the number of drive-alone commutes by 10-12%, reduce traffic, improve air quality, and promote health and well-being.
*This bill would not require all employers to provide a commuter benefit. Rather, if an employer voluntarily provides a parking benefit, this bill would require them to also provide an equivalent benefit to employees who walk/bike or take transit.