11th hour Fiscal Deal restores transit tax benefit for suburban riders

As noted already by David Alpert and Ben Kabak, the agreement passed yesterday to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” restores a tax benefit to transit commuters that had expired at the beginning of 2012. Transit riders will be able to pay $240 per month in pre-tax dollars, saving them and their employers money. This is up from the $125 per month that was the maximum throughout 2012, after Congress failed to renew the benefit, and the $230 per month maximum that was in place 2009-2011; it restores parity with the parking benefit, which went up from $230 to $240 at the beginning of 2012. Unfortunately, the restoration is only in place for 2013, and extending it further is the responsibility of the 113th Congress; a dismaying prospect given the record of the 112th.

The new benefit is a huge benefit for SEPTA Regional Rail riders, virtually all of whom have been forced by their benefit managers to pay the first $125 with their benefit cards and the rest out of pocket for the last year. $240 is enough to pay for any monthly pass SEPTA offers. It will also cover NJT’s Atlantic City Line out to Hammonton, or an NJT River Line + PATCO or PATCO + SEPTA City Transit daily commute, or a monthly pass on Amtrak’s Keystone Service from Downingtown to Center City. Basically, this is a huge win for responsible suburban commuters to Center City, and a good foot forward to start 2013.

And one last note: if you’re interested in signing up for this benefit, as a commuter or as an employer, DVRPC’s program has changed its name from TransitChek to RideECO.

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  1. Poking at nearby metro areas, it will also get you from Lancaster to Harrisburg (a similar distance), or from Newark to Wilmington (shorter and probably less useful), both of which are cheaper tickets. And it will get you from Lancaster to Exton, or similarly ridiculous suburb-to-suburb things which are less well-covered by SEPTA.

    I guess this means I have to fill out more paperwork at work now. I don’t think I get to complain, though!

  2. Also: Apparently (I clicked your link to Alpert) it is retroactive to 2012. Which means I should have just left my nice, simple 2011 withholding in place all year instead of changing it to be compliant halfway through. At least this ought to simplify the mess I was expecting to have to deal with from the first six months.

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