New commuter benefits could help bicyclists
Mayor Gray has proposed requiring large businesses to provide their employees with a commuter benefit and that benefit could include the cost of bicycling to work. While it's a good move, it doesn't cover bikesharing, and DC has yet to extend this benefit to its own employees.
At the beginning of this month, Mayor Gray submitted a package of 11 bills as part of the Sustainable DC Act of 2013. Included in this is the Transit Benefit Establishment Act of 2013, which would require that employers with 50 or more workers provide their minimum wage-eligible staff with some form of transit benefit.
Employers will have three choices. They can give their employees pre-tax benefits, to be used however they like, that are at least as high as the maximum amount that can be deducted from the employee's gross income. They can also supply each employee a transit pass or reimburse them for vanpool cost. Finally, the employer can provide vanpool or bus transportation to work at no cost to employees.
The first option could include the bicycle commuter benefit, if the employer chooses to offer it, because the Internal Revenue Service considers it a qualified mode of transportation. The second option does not include bikesharing as a public transit system that employees can choose, but it should. And employers would likely support that, since it is surely much cheaper than any of the other options. And the third option does not relate to cyclists.
This is a good bill that could be made a little bit better if it included bikesharing as transit. (The federal government could decide to call bikesharing transit if it passed the Commuter Parity Act of 2013, but why wait?)
In addition, DC does not currently offer its employees the option to choose the bicycle commuter benefit in place of a transit benefit. Gray claims that this bill will move the District "even further along on the path to becoming an international destination for people and investment, and a model of innovative policies and practices that improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for all District residents."
Expanding the commuter benefits of DC employees to include the bicycle commuter benefit would help with that too, and at almost no cost to the District.
Crossposted from theWashCycle.
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