Late last month, San Francisco supervisors passed a new ordinance that requires employers to make mass transit part of an employee's benefits package. Commuters who take the bus, train, ferry, or vanpool to work could be saving up to 40 percent on their commuting expenses.
The new law is called the "commuter benefits ordinance," which requires all employers with 20 or more employees to provide commuter benefits to encourage their employees to use public transit or vanpools.
A covered employee is an employee who performed an average of at least 10 hours of work per week for the same employer within the previous calendar month, and qualifies as an employee entitled to payment of a minimum wage from the employer under the California minimum wage law, or is a participant in a Welfare-to-Work program.
Covered employers must do one of the following three things:
1. Allow employees to pay for mass transit on a pre-tax basis, up to the maximum level allowed by federal law (currently $115);
2. Pay for employees' transportation to and from work;
3. Provide transportation at no cost to employees in a vanpool or bus, or similar multi-passenger vehicle.
Commuter benefits encourage people to use transit and vanpools to get to work. This helps to relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution.
The law will become effective in December 2008. Thousands of employers in San Francisco and across the country are already offering commuter benefits, covering approximately 30,000 employees.