Subsidy program alleviate s commute cost
September 23, 2011
Personnel looking to save money can take advantage of the government subsidy program that helps pays for mass transit commuting.
The Mass Transportation Benefit Program, which provides up to $230 to eligible employees, offers people a reasonable reason to travel to work in large groups, rather than individual vehicles which cause traffic congestion.
"They had come up with something to get people to use mass transit, so giving them the subsidies is an incentive for the employees," said Juanita Green, Directorate of Logistics transportation demand management coordinator.
The $230 from the program can potentially pay for most, if not all, of the cost for commuting, whether it's vanpooling, Virginia Railway Express or Metro.
The MTBP program originated April 2000 via Executive Order 13150, entitled "Federal Workforce Transportation."
The order stipulates Federal agencies provide employees with benefits for using mass transit.
Washington Headquarters Services oversees the order for the National Capital Region.
Belvoir employees can visit the WHS website to sign-up. Eligible people consist of civilians, military or non-appropriated funded employees paid and employed by the Department of Defense that are permanently stationed and working in the NCR.
Interns and students employed and paid directly by DoD who were not hired via contractual agreements are eligible as well. And, Reserve components on active duty for more than 30 consecutive days are also eligible.
Green recommends that non eligible personnel working on Belvoir speak with their employers to see if there's a possibility that their employer could help pay for mass transit commuting.
Participants have to submit a monthly claim to receive mass transportation benefits.
Currently, the MTBP funds come in the form of a fare-card voucher. Starting in November, personnel will receive the funds in the form of SmartBenefits, which enables the electronic transfer of funds to SmartTrip Cards.
It's not a guarantee that everyone receives the $230 amount, so Green recommended that people request the maximum amount when signing up.
The full amount can potentially pay for the entire commute, but there are some people who have to pay out of pocket for the commuting amount not covered.
Green said each agency and vendor charges a different price, so the amount an individual has to pay will vary based on their commuting service.
"That $230 will help," Green said.
The MTBP funding can be used for a variety of mass transit providers such as the Fairfax Connector, Omniride and registered vanpool vendors.
"If the government provides it, that's far less wear and tear on your vehicle and that's far less wear and tear on you," said Harry Pender, DoL fork lift motor vehicle operator. Pender has been using mass transit commuting since 2007, using a van pool and most recently Quick's Bus.
He enjoys his commute from Fredericksburg, Va.
The $200 Quick's Bus charges per month for ridership are covered by the funding Pender receives from the MTBP.
He said mass transit commuting eases stress financially and it allows him to contribute to the lessening of vehicle traffic.
"It's a good program and I'd hate to see it fail," Pender said.
There is a possibility that the mass transit commuting, which is effective until December 2011, will cease to exist after this time period. Green said U.S. congress will have to make that decision as to whether to keep the program or not.
The subsidy program is just one of the many alternatives Federal and State governments use to persuade drivers to use mass transit for commuting.
Sept. 19 through 23 is Virginia's fourth annual statewide TryTransit Week. The event challenges people across the commonwealth to use an alternate form of transportation for traveling to work. Personnel, who pledge to accept the task, will be entered for a chance to win a year's free pass to the transit service of their choice and two round-trip tickets on Amtrak Virginia.
Visit WHS site at www.whs.mil/FSD/Info/NCRTransitSubsidy.cfm for more information on the MTBP.
Visit Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority at www.wmata.com/ for more information participating vendors and SmartBenefits.