Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program

Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On September 30, 2012, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1339 (Yee), authorizing the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to jointly adopt and implement a commuter benefits ordinance in the Bay Area on a pilot basis. The primary objective of the commuter benefits program is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and criteria air pollutants by expanding the number of employers who provide commuter benefits to their employees and promoting the use of alternative commute modes such as transit, ridesharing, and bicycling.

Building on the success of similar requirements adopted in the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley and Richmond, SB 1339 facilitates a regional approach to involving employers in the effort to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. SB 1339 offers substantial economic benefits to employers and employees that will ripple outward through the regional economy. Employers can reduce payroll taxes (roughly nine percent of subject wages), and employees can lower their commute costs by up to 40 percent.

Air District and MTC staffs worked over the course of a year to develop the program with input from a wide range of stakeholders. The Air District issued a draft rule in late August 2013. In October 2013, Air District and MTC staffs held public workshops in all nine Bay Area counties to solicit input on the draft Program. The proposed final program — Regulation 14: Mobile Source Emissions Reduction Measures, Rule 1: Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program (issued 1/21/2014) — includes revisions to the draft program in response to the comments received during the public workshops and public comment period. Regulation 14 would require employers with 50 or more full-time employees in the Bay Area to select one of the following four commuter benefit options to offer to their employees:

  • Allow employees to exclude their transit or vanpool costs from taxable income, up to the maximum amount allowed by current federal law;
  • Provide a transit or vanpool subsidy to reduce, or cover, employees’ monthly transit or vanpool costs;
  • Provide a low-cost or free shuttle, vanpool, or bus service for employees (operated by or for the employer); or
  • Propose an alternative commuter benefit that would be equally as effective as the other options in reducing single-occupant vehicle trips (and/or vehicle emissions).

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The hearing will be held in the Board Room at the Air District offices, 939 Ellis Street, 7th floor, San Francisco. Air District Board meetings start at 9:45 a.m. See the Notice of Public Hearing under related documents.

Interested parties also are invited to submit written comments on the proposed Regulation 14 and supporting documents. Comments may be submitted via e-mail to commuterbenefits@baaqmd.gov, or by postal mail to:

David Burch, Principal Environmental Planner
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
939 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA, 94109

Written comments on the regulatory proposal and Negative Declaration must be received by 5:00 p.m., Friday, February 21, 2014. For additional information, visit the Air District’s website here.

The program will be presented to MTC's Planning Committee on March 14. If Regulation 14 is approved by the Air District Board at the March 19 meeting, the program will be forwarded to the Commission for final approval at their March 26 meeting.

Should the Air District Board of Directors adopt the proposed rule and if the Commission concurs with this action, then Bay Area employers would have six months to comply with the requirements of the program.