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Commuter Check checked?

By enelson
Friday, April 27th, 2007 at 11:47 am in Bicycling, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, Fare systems, Funding, Transit vs. driving.

commuter-checks-checked.jpgI discovered this week that in addition to adding six miles to my commute by moving our office to another part of Oakland, the company that was kind enough to hire me and continues to show that kindness by paying me every two weeks (Thanks, guys!) is seriously considering deleting its Commuter Check subsidy.

To be fair, I should point out that when I took this job, I knew I would have a long commute, some 67 miles each way, 90 minutes by car and 2 hours by train and bike on a good day. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in addition to paying for a third of my train ticket tax-free through the Commuter Check program, MediaNews Group would be kicking in about $33 of those dollars as an incentive to keep me out of my car, save the planet and solve our congestion problem.

There were other incentives, too. I received special dispensation to park at night in a more secure parking area so I could leave my car at work and take transit home. While many newspapers would not allow reporters to go car-less, after a building renovation project made nighttime parking impossible, I got by without a car at all.

The explanation, as you might have guessed, is that we need to cut costs, especially in the newspaper business. I got that, but the other reason given was that not very many people use this very precious of benefits. So the costs are low, right?

It seems that if our company is undergoing reorganization, and lots of people are having to commute to new locations, isn’t it possible more people will sign up?

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3 Responses to “Commuter Check checked?”

  1. Bruce De Benedictis Says:

    The Commuter Check program is not actually a program to encourage transit, it is a program to provide equity to transit riders. It comes out of tax law: If a company is providing free parking to employees who drive, it is actually paying them more than employees who are not driving. The IRS had proposed requiring companies that provide free parking to figure out the cost of the benefit and add that to their taxable income for the year. Companies balked, and came up with the Commuter Check idea instead. I think that your company may be required to reimburse you for your transit expenses in some other way if it discontinues Commuter Check. I would check with the IRS, or the state labor relations board.

  2. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Bruce, I confess I’ve never heard that (I’m not doubting you; I should bone up on this), but it makes sense. So what you’re saying is that my company should continue the subsidy or run afoul of the IRS. Hmmm.

  3. air district’s critical miss - The Capricious Commuter - Getting around the Bay Area with Erik N. Nelson Says:

    [...] employees with free BART tickets, generous Commuter Check subsidies (did I mention that I’ve lost mine?) and a fleet of off-road Segways with the boss mudder [...]

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