Bill would offer businesses mass transit credit

May 12, 2008 8:33:29 PM PDT
Drivers willing to leave their cars at home could benefit from a new proposal to make their commutes less costly.Many companies provide medical and dental benefits.

Now there's new legislation to get businesses to offer mass transit benefits.

As gas prices go up -- 75-percent higher since January, 2007 - mass transit ridership has ticked up only slightly in our region -- two-percent in the same time frame.

But what if your employer paid for you to ride to work on the CTA or Metra?

Yes, there's a stop right in front of my house, so I don't see why not," said commuter Vanaja Chilakapati.

A recent study by Business Week found that more than half of workers in Chicago said they would take public transportation if their employer paid for it.

So on Monday, three Republican congressmen -- Mark Kirk, Judy Biggert and Peter Roskam - announced their plan to make that happen.

Their bill would give tax credits to employers -- a 50 percent tax credit for all free transit benefits provided to workers - up to $1,380 a year.

"With gas prices up and ridership not quite tracking, we think there should be a program to encourage people to use mass transit," said Kirk.

"This is a great plan, very creative," said Burt Klein, chief operating officer for Portionpac, a Chicago cleaning-supply manufacturer devoted to sustainability.

In the parking lot, they already have spaces reserved for car pools or hybrids.

"I also think anything you can do to encourage people, not only will it help them but it will help business," said Klein.

The CTA, RTA and Metra are all on board for the idea. The Commuter Act, as it's called, will be introduced in Congress this week.

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