Transit benefit reaches parity with parking benefit, plus other new laws


Transit users whose employers provide pre-tax benefit programs stand to pay less taxes in 2012 and 2013. Photo by Erin Nekervis. 

January 1st always comes with new laws. This January 1st was a little different than most in that the United States was closing in on the “fiscal cliff”. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 is expected to be signed into law by President Obama and includes provisions that raise taxes on a majority of Americans, and prolongs extended unemployment benefits, among other changes to the tax code. A major change, fought over for years by sustainable transportation advocates, is the coming yearlong parity of the transit commuter benefit with the parking benefit. These two programs deduct the cost of a monthly transit or parking pass before calculating taxes owed (“pre-tax benefit”).

The American Public Transportation Association released a statement:

For 2013, there is no longer a financial bias in the federal tax code against public transit use. This has always been an issue of fairness, and public transit advocates are pleased that the federal tax code will again provide transit riders with the same tax benefits according to those who drive to work.

The change will be retroactive to January 1, 2012, so workers whose employers implement this program will be able to receive tax benefits for any passes they purchased through the program last year. Unfortunately, the benefit expires December 31, 2013. This isn’t the first time that the transit commuter benefit will expire while the parking benefit remains. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA 2009, also known as the “stimulus”) raised the transit commuter benefit from $120 to $230 per month, but that expired on December 31, 2011. The parking benefit remained at $230 per month.

Continue reading Transit benefit reaches parity with parking benefit, plus other new laws

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In Obama’s second term, distinctive transportation policy must change focus to walking and bicycling


Barack Obama and his family on stage at McCormick Place last night. Photo by John Tolva. 

President Obama was elected to a second term yesterday, defeating former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. We are glad for this as we believe it will maintain the excellent ideas, initiatives, and enthusiasm for sustainable transportation for at least four more years. President Obama hired Ray LaHood to be the secretary of transportation. Partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation crafted six livability principles that changed how grants would be distributed.


This Amtrak Lincoln Service train will be moving a bit faster this year. Photo by Eric Pancer. 

The Obama administration created the first-ever plan for high-speed rail corridors and after Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, “stimulus”) in 2009, Illinois rebuilt hundreds of miles of track from Chicago to St. Louis, Missouri, to speed up its busiest passenger train line. The plan is the best chance for European and Asian-style high-speed rail to connect Midwest cities, giving people more options and alternatives over driving with expensive gas and unfairly-subsidized roads.

Continue reading In Obama’s second term, distinctive transportation policy must change focus to walking and bicycling

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Grid Bits: State of the Union address, transit news


Photo of a Blue Line train at UIC-Halsted. This train has the oldest cars in the system, noticeable with their “butterfly doors” that are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs, or customers with bicycles. Photo by David Wilson.

In this edition of Grid Bits, five transit stories, and an update on President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. First, the transit news.

(1) CTA overtime

The Chicago Transit Authority uses an employee’s overtime work to calculate their pension amount, and analysis from the Chicago Tribune finds that the CTA reports overtime in an odd way: Continue reading Grid Bits: State of the Union address, transit news

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Switching priorities: Giving $27 billion to national transit instead of roads


A Metra train passes over a congested highway in Chicago. 

Congress is “debating” (it doesn’t always seem like a debate but a shouting match full of poorly chosen words) President Obama’s American Jobs Act right now; the latest news is that the Senate has rewritten the bill to add a new 5% tax on income above $1 million. The bill also includes allocations and competitive grant funding for capital* infrastructure projects, for Amtrak, transit, and road (which would include a tiny bit for bicycle and pedestrian projects) and bridge repair and other types. Read the Act.

Infrastructurist has an idea on how that money could be distributed differently:

Take Obama’s latest proposed jobs bill, which includes $27 billion for immediate spending on highways and bridges, and around $9 billion for rail. Clearly, that’s a huge tilt. What about changing that ratio of fund distribution, on the basis that nearly every large city is currently working to introduce transit? In other words, what if we gave $27 billion to transit, and $9 billion to roads?

It’s already been shown that bike lanes and transit projects provide more jobs for the dollar than road building.

Bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located.

…road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million. (Reuters)

We’re for giving transit the funding priority.

*In some cases the bill allows for 10% of the money received to be used for operating expenses. 

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