Amendment Extends Program Indefinitely
A new law in California makes certain changes to the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program. Highlights of the amended law are presented below. Background The Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees (generally those working at least 30 hours per week) within the jurisdiction of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to offer one or more of the following commuter benefit options to most employees who work at least 20 hours per week within the District:
- A pre-tax benefit allowing employees to exclude transit or vanpool costs from taxable income (to the maximum extent permitted by federal law);
- An employer-provided subsidy to cover or reduce monthly transit or vanpool costs (up to $75 per month, as adjusted for inflation);
- Employer-provided transit, consisting of a free or low-cost bus, shuttle, or vanpool service; or
- An alternative commuter benefit that is as effective as the other options in reducing single-occupant vehicle trips (or vehicle emissions).
Amended Law The amended law eliminates a “sunset provision,” under which the law would have expired on January 1, 2017. As such, the law has been extended indefinitely.
Additionally, the amended law deletes bicycle commuting from the program’s pre-tax option to conform to federal law, and adds bicycle commuting to the employer-paid benefit option of the program, allowing an employer to offer a bicycle commuting subsidy to employees. If the covered employer chooses to offer a subsidy to offset the monthly cost of commuting by bicycle, the subsidy must be either the monthly cost of commuting by bicycle or twenty dollars ($20), whichever is lower. These provisions are effective January 1, 2017.