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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Transportation Benefits: Not So Much



It's time for a rare political rant here on The Life of LilMisBusy. I'm not an expert on the issue, but something about this struck me as odd.

When I received my firm's Open Enrollment package a week ago, I noticed that the benefit on transit passes was being reduced while the benefit for parking was increasing. I've done a bit of digging to discover that these are called "Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits" and the limits were set at $230/month for both transit passes and parking during the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in 2009. However, the benefit on transit passes was apparently temporary, and is being cut back to $125/month in January. Meanwhile, the benefit for parking is getting a cost of living adjustment (COLA) and increasing to $240/month.

Now, as annoying as my Green Line train can be, I'm VERY lucky that my transit pass is only $59/month, and I won't be affected by the limit decrease. At least, it seems that way from the outset. But maybe some of my neighbors in Needham, wanting to avoid that extra bit of taxation, will switch and start taking the Green Line too, since their monthly commuter rail pass is $151/month. Or maybe some friends in Framingham will start driving to Riverside to escape their $210/month pass. Hey, let's throw in some extra passengers from Fitchburg or Worcester too, with their $250/month fee. Suddenly my already over-capacity train is feeling even more crowded. (Oh, and the MBTA is planning to, and should, increase its rates this summer, right?)

But parking, which typically serves just one person, which is more harmful to the environment, which if you're able to spend that much cash on means you're probably doing pretty well, that gets the COLA?

I'm not against raising taxes in general, but this plan? This is completely backwards. And I haven't heard anyone talking about it.

Sources:
https://www.payflex.com/mypayflex/
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=205664,00.html
http://adminproadvantage.com/index.php/news/73-irs-releases-2012-transportation-fringe-benefits-limits.html
http://mbta.com/ (including image of the commuter rail map)

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