Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
The cost of commuting by transit is set to rise in 2012 for 2.7 million Americans. The Commuter Tax Benefit program that allows workers to use up to $230 in pre-tax dollars each month for mass transit costs will expire if Congress doesn't renew it by the end of the year. The parallel benefit for car commuters will stay in place.
N.Y. Senator Chuck Schumer says that's wrong. "We need to be encouraging people to take mass transit. That's what this benefit does. If we let it expire, we're sending out a message: better for you to drive than take the train," he told reporters and curious commuters a press conference this morning staged in front of the iconic Grand Central Terminal information booth.
While the transit tax benefit has been set to expire before, stand-offs in Congress over deficit reduction and other major pieces of legislation may make coming to an accord on the transit tax benefit that much more difficult.
Using fighting language, Schumer announced he is launching a campaign to preserve the transit benefit saying, "I will do everything in my power to get this benefit renewed." He promoted the advocacy efforts of TransitCenter, a company that administers transit benefits like TransitChek, including a new website defending the tax benefit.
Commuters who use the program's full benefits save over $1,000 a year in taxes. Until 2009, the benefit offered for car commuting costs was almost double what was available for rail and bus commuting costs. A one-year bill passed in 2009 bringing benefit parity and was extended at the 11th hour last year. Schumer plans to introduce an extender for the transit tax benefit and vowed to push for it to be made permanent.