Congress has it backwards on transit
The pain of commuting is one of those problems that is consistent within and outside the Washington Beltway. Members of Congress need only view the congestion outside their office windows to know that the same sort of congestion lengthens the work day for Americans in every major city.
Yet the lawmakers recessed for Christmas without renewing a tax credit that helps to ease congestion across the land, while allowing an increased tax credit that worsens the problem.
Until Jan. 1, commuters who use mass transit were able to set aside up to $245 a month in pre-tax money to help pay for their use of buses, trains, trolleys, subways and ferries. Now, because Congress did not reauthorize that amount, mass transit riders may set aside only $130.
At the same time, Congress allowed a $5 increase in the pre-tax set-aside for parking, which is used by people who drive their own vehicles to work. It rose Wednesday to $250 a month.
This is bad public policy on several scores.
The government's own data show that mass transit reduces gasoline consumption by more than 4 billion gallons a year, which results in tens of thousands of tons of reduced carbon emissions a year. Federal data also show that transit users overall have lower incomes when compared to commuting drivers, making the disparate subsidies unfair economic policy.
When Congress returns, it should restore the higher credit for transit to help maintain transit's role in reducing congestion, improving the environment and contributing to physical and financial mobility for workers.