Bay Area Employers Must Adopt Commuter Benefits Program by September 30, 2014

Employers with fifty or more full-time employees working in the nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southwestern Solano, and southern Sonoma counties) have until September 30, 2014 to adopt a  commuter benefits program.

Covered employers must pick at least one of 4 options:

  • Option 1: Pre-Tax Benefit. The employer allows employees to exclude up to $130 of their transit or vanpooling expenses each month from their taxable income;
  • Option 2: Employer-Provided Subsidy. The employer provides a subsidy, up to $75 per month, to reduce or cover employees’ monthly transit, vanpool costs or bicycling costs;
  • Option 3: Employer-Provided Transit. The employer provides a free or low-cost transit service, such as a bus, shuttle or vanpool service, for employees; or
  • Option 4: Alternative Commuter Benefit. The employer provides an alternative commuter benefit that is as effective in reducing single-occupancy commute trips as Options 1, 2 or 3.

The selected option must be offered to all employees in the nine county area who work at least twenty hours per week.  Note: for determining whether an employer is covered by the commuter benefit law, only employees working thirty or more hours per week are counted among the reach 50 full-time employees.

In addition to offering a commuter benefit, covered employers must:

  • Designate a commuter benefits coordinator (typically an employee already handling payroll/benefits);
  • Submit an online registration form to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (here) and update their registration information on an annual basis;
  • Notify employees of the commuter benefit option offered and make that option available; and
  • Maintain records to document implementation of the commuter benefit.

The Air District’s Employer’s Guide to the Commuter Benefits Program has helpful information, with links to forms that employers can use to set up various options.

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