Transit law has support

The City will legally require San Francisco businesses with 20 or more employees to offer workers one of three transit benefits by the end of the year.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the business mandate Tuesday, but unlike previous measures — including forcing businesses to provide workers such benefits as health care and sick leave that drew the ire of the business community — this one came with the backing of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Supervisors also promised that the mandate would cost business owners no additional money and even save them money.

The law, introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, requires businesses to offer one of three pro-transit options to workers.

They include participation in a program offered by the federal government that allows employers to provide employees the
benefit of deducting up to $115 of pretax wages for a commuter check to purchase monthly transit passes.

Under that program, employers save up to 9 percent in payroll taxes while employees save up to 40 percent on their monthly transit cost. After one year, a $45 monthly Muni Fast Pass would cost the employee $27 per month.

“There is no additional cost to business owners,” Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said. “They have the ability to say that, as part of the wages, the costs associated with the transit pass can be offered as pre-tax. This is not yet another tax imposed on business.”

Mirkarimi proposed the law as a way to cut down on carbon emissions by boosting the number of public-transit riders. The proposal is the first of its kind in the nation.

“Getting Fast Passes into the hands of more Muni riders will help us improve the system,” said Judson True, a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman.

To meet the requirement, which takes effect Dec. 22, businesses could also offer to pay for a Muni Fast Pass or another transit pass of equal value, or provide free transportation to and from the workplace.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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