San Francisco transit savings plan may spread 

click to enlarge San Francisco companies with more than 20 employees are required to allow their workers to pay for transit options such as BART with pre-tax wages. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • San Francisco companies with more than 20 employees are required to allow their workers to pay for transit options such as BART with pre-tax wages.

A San Francisco commuter incentive program that encourages alternative transportation could be expanded to the entire Bay Area.

Since 2009, companies with at least 20 employees have allowed workers to pay for commuting costs with pretax wages. However, the ordinance only applies to public transit, car-sharing and bicycling.

Last year, state Sen. Leland Yee tried to expand the ordinance statewide, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation, saying the requirement would be harmful for small businesses. Yee has since tweaked the legislation to only include the nine-county Bay Area, along with making the employee requirement 50 instead of 20.

Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin said the revised legislation now has Brown’s backing and bipartisan support in the Legislature.

The new incentive could result in tax savings of 40 percent for commuters, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s lead planning agency. Businesses could save up to 9 percent on state and federal taxes.

More than 100 cities would be affected. Programs in Richmond, Berkeley and San Francisco would not change, said Tom Addison, a legislative adviser for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which is co-sponsoring the initiative.

By encouraging commuters to take transit, the legislation could have a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gases, Addison said.

Companies would have to offer a transit subsidy of $75 per month in lieu of the program. The legislation also would require shuttle van access for workers. If those requirements cannot be met, the business would have to provide equivalent greenhouse gas reductions.

Jim Lazarus, the public policy director for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said the organization supports the plan because it benefits both companies and employees, though he has some reservations about adding more layers of bureaucracy.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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