The lukewarm compromise reached by Democrats and Republicans to avert the impending doom that was the fiscal cliff contained a New Year’s surprise for transit commuters. The new deal included a return to the 2009 commuter benefits program “that allows workers to pay for up to $240 of their monthly transit costs with pre-tax dollars.” This means that transit commuters could potentially exempt up to $1,500 of their annual commute costs from taxes.
“Any incentive to get people to take transit is a bonus,” commented Tom Nolan, who sits on the Caltrain and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors. And in the Bay Area, any relief from the often high financial burden of taking public transportation in the Bay Area is welcome.
Since the fiscal cliff package is retroactive to January 1, 2012, commuters may be able to apply the benefits program to their upcoming tax returns. The details of how to do this are still being determined, however, since the reinstating of the program was so sudden and unexpected. The Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance, a transit advocacy organization, is working on determining how it can be done.