A new study released earlier this week questions the structure of the federal government’s current commuter tax benefit system. Currently, transit users who participate in the federal program receive a $130 pre-tax deduction to pay for transit fares, whereas drivers receive a deduction of $250 for parking.
The study’s authors argue that by incentivizing commuters to drive rather than use other forms of transit, the current policy is misaligned with recent transportation trends and the need to improve transit system efficiency by promoting other transportation options. The study also notes that the tax break is largely unavailable to low-income commuters that would benefit most from it.
“Ultimately, the effect of the tax benefit for commuter parking is to subsidize traffic congestion by putting roughly 820,000 more cars on America’s most congested roads in its most congested cities at the most congested times of day,” the study says. “It delivers the greatest benefits to those who need them least, typically upper-income Americans, and costs $7.3 billion in reduced tax revenue that must be made up through cuts in government programs, a higher deficit or increases in taxes on other Americans.”
In 2013, the benefit for transit commuters was set at $235 but dropped to $130. Meanwhile, the car commuter’s pre-tax deduction rose to $250 in 2014. A bill to match both the parking and transit benefits at $235 is pending legislation.
An interesting first mile/last mile idea out of suburban Boston looks to crowd-fund $320,000 to create an on-demand transit system that will reroute underutilized local municipal buses and private shuttles to pick up passengers at the last MBTA rail station. The idea is a potential solution to the lack of transit options for transit riders who reach the end of the line, but need to continue on to destinations farther along Route 128, a major corridor.
The executive director of the project described it as a “middle ground between a traditional bus service and something like a taxi,” but it really sounds like a transit hybrid of the services mobile ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar offer.
If the funds are successfully raised, the technology that is developed will be free to use for any small municipal transit agencies in Massachusetts. The company will still need to find private companies and local communities to participate in initial testing and implementation.
Uber draws fire after executive suggests investigating reporters (Crain’s Chicago Business)
In the realm of sort-of-transit news: public perception of the mobile ride-sharing service Uber might be souring after a key executive officer made off-hand remarks suggesting the company should invest $1 million to “dig up dirt” on reporters that are critical of the company. The company’s CEO sent a 13 tweet apology yesterday. As much as I’m a fan of using ridesharing companies as an occasional supplement to other modes of transit — for shame, Uber.
Source Editor Steve Hymon adds this: digging up dirt on reporters is a useless exercise — most reporters are too busy working to generate much, if any, “dirt.” 🙂
How public transportation can fight climate change (MassTransit Magazine)
A quick look at how public transportation agencies are using technology to improve the efficiency of their operations and reduce waste byproducts. Examples include hybrid electric buses to reduce emissions, contactless-card fare management to reduce paper waste, pro-active asset management to maintain optimal performance of buses and trains and transportation demand management to improve the flow of the overall transportation system.
Categories: Transportation Headlines