Did You Know?

Half of school children walked or biked to school in 1969, but only 13 percent were doing it in 2009.

Tell Congress members to support bike and transit

It’s time for change. As we wrote last spring, our commuter tax benefit system favors car travel over public transportation and bicycle commuting. The benefit is an employer-provided federal tax benefit that allows commuters to purchase tax free transit passes, carpooling rides or parking.

Currently, the monthly benefit for car parking is $250, compared to just a $130 benefit for transit users (down from $245 last year). The transit benefit reduction has already cost commuters up to $100 a month in additional travel expenses.

We need Congress to pass legislation that will increase the tax benefit for transit users and bicycle commuters. Six members of Congress from the Chicago region — including Dan Lipinski, Mike Quigley, Brad Schneider, Bill Foster, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky — are already supportive, but we need a greater commitment to get this off the ground.

Here’s what’s on the table:

  • HR 2288: Under this bipartisan-sponsored bill, the Commuter Parity Act would raise the transit benefit and lower the parking benefit for commuters, making both $220 a month. The bill would also increase the monthly commuter bike benefit from $20 to $35 and would make bike share memberships eligible for the benefit as well. 
  • S. 1116: The companion bill in the Senate, the Commuter Benefits Equity Act, removes the parity between transit and parking benefits, keeping the bike benefit the same. Additionally, the EXPIRE Act includes a commuter benefit for bike sharing.

If we continue on the current path and do not take action on these bills, the bike benefit could be repealed altogether.

Commuting by public transit reduces congestion and improves air quality, making the region a better place to live. With fewer cars, the streets are safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, encouraging more active transportation.

The transit benefit also helps both employers and employees save money. Commuters spend less on transportation per month, and a higher transit tax benefit reduces employers’ payroll taxes. Furthermore, the benefit allows more employment options for workers because travel costs are limited.

This is an urgent issue so we need to act now before it is too late! Show your support for equitable transit benefits by signing a letter to your local member of Congress and taking action through the League of American Bicyclists’ alert. We need to let Congress know that all commuters deserve the same transit benefit, regardless of how they get to work.

This blog post was contributed by Sydney Prusak, an Active Trans advocacy intern.