Commuter Programs

Take Advantage Of "Commuter Choice" Programs

Most Americans commute to work, and now there are special programs that provide incentives for both employees and employers to "get there with clean air." the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Transportation are teaming up with businesses and others to set up "commuter choice" programs. These employer-sponsored initiatives can make you eligible for cash and other benefits for greener commuting. Examples include:

  • One company gives its workers free walking shoes, with the promotion "we'll even buy your walking shoes if you hoof it to work!"
  • Another company offers participating employees monthly drawings for prizes that might include extra time off, mountain bikes, and other goodies.
  • A municipality gives its employees an extra hour of time-off for every 5 days they use carpool or vanpool to get to work, plus permission to dress casually at the office.

Companies and communities that make use of commuter choice benefits often save money. For example, by cutting down on car commuting, they can avoid the need to build large parking lots that are both expensive and use up green space. These programs take advantage of recent fringe benefits rules, such as offering workers tax-free transit or vanpool benefits of up to $100 per month. Employers can also allow employees to "cash-out" their parking space, receiving additional income of up to $175 per month (taxed like added salary for the employee, but still a deductible business expense for the employer). Employees can use this cash to commute as they wish, including carpooling, telecommuting, bicycling, or walking. Employers benefit through lowered taxes, lowered costs, and new ways to recruit and keep employees.

Commuter choice cuts pollution, reduces traffic congestion, and conserves energy. Ask your employer if they have a commuter choice program. If not, ask them to start one. For more information, check out the commuter choice website.