Congress recently failed to maintain parity for commuter benefits, granting drivers up to $250 a month but dropping transit riders down to $130. The decision is terrible for both sides — transit riders obviously lose, but so do drivers, since the incentive for a single-occupancy commute will increase traffic — but it shouldn't be that surprising. In fact the few brief years of benefit equality were the exception, not the rule:
That's from a recent brief on commuter benefits presented by the Center for Urban Transportation Research, at the University of South Florida. As the CUTR talk made clear, transit riders aren't the only commuters getting the short end of the benefit stick. A breakdown by wage group shows that workers in the bottom quartile of earnings are far less likely to have access to subsidized benefits than workers at the top:
Congress' action falls in the category: "You just can't make this stuff up." Aside from its impact nationally, especially on lower wage earners, it hits directly at prospective users of the Silver Line in Reston and Tysons and, later, as far as Loudoun County. So while the County and Restonians are trying to encourage the use of mass transit after spending some $6 billion in building the Silver Line and jacking up prices every few years on the Dulles Toll Road for the next 40 years, Congress is encouraging people to jump in their cars and drive to work, home, and play in the name of balancing the budget. Once again, our dysfunctional Congress is laying the burden of budget cuts on those who can least afford while continuing to make the United States dependent on the automobile and adding to air pollution and traffic congestion..
Like we said, "You just can't make this stuff up."