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Transit benefit ordinance gaining attention in Chicago

On Sept. 14, business leaders, elected officials, agency representatives, and transportation advocates from around the region learned about San Francisco’s Commuter Benefits Ordinance – a concept designed to encourage transit use, improve regional mobility, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save people money.

Effective January 2009, any company in San Francisco with 20 or more employees must offer their workers pre-tax incentives to ride transit or participate in company-run vanpool services for their daily commutes to or from work.  The program saves participants more than $1,000 every year and can save employers 10 percent or more on payroll taxes.  Since the program was first put into effect, San Francisco’s transit agencies saw an increase in ridership by more than 27 percent. Transit agencies gain new customers, drivers benefit from less congestion during rush hours, companies add an easy to manage program to their benefits package, and everyday commuters save more than 40 percent of their travel costs. 

In the Chicagoland region, companies can opt to participate in the RTA/CTA Transit Benefit Program.  Unlike San Francisco’s model, Chicago’s program is voluntary. As the city aggressively works to reach the objectives highlighted in the Chicago Climate Action Plan, solutions that encourage transit ridership and help to reduce our $7.3 billion annual loss to congestion will be key components towards achieving our city’s goals. As other cities begin to look at the Commuter Tax Benefit model, Chicago is poised to establish a more aggressive implementation of the existing Transit Benefit Program.

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