Maryland Legislation Seeks to Cut Commute Costs
Congress put both employers and commuters in a difficult position when it allowed the maximum tax-free transit and vanpool benefits permitted under federal law to drop to $125/month, while leaving allowable parking benefits at $240/month.
Montgomery County leaders encouraged the Maryland state legislature to find a way to offset the negative impact of this change to transit and vanpool use - as well as on commuters' pocketbooks.
The result: Senate Bill 810 introduced by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno, Jr. (District 18) and House Bill 989 crossfiled by Del. Eric G. Luedtke (District 14).
The bills seek to offset the increased cost of commuting caused by Congress. They would amend state tax law to reduce commuters' Maryland taxable income by the amount of expense they incur for those commuting costs that exceed the new $125/month federal limit (up to a maximum of $240/month).
For state tax purposes, individuals who choose to commute via transit/vanpool would thus not have to receive less than people who get parking benefits. The change would apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2011.
"Montgomery County is highly supportive of this legislation," said Commuter Services Section Chief Sandra Brecher. "Senator Madaleno and Delegate Luedtke clearly recognize the importance of giving employer-provided transit and vanpooling benefits a level playing field with parking."
A hearing is scheduled on HB 989 for 1:00pm on February 29 in the House Ways and Means Committee in Annapolis, so if you want to support this bill be sure to let your Maryland legislators know right away.
Ready to Pedal?
Never Too Soon: February might seem a little early to start thinking about Bike to Work Day, but our region's on-again-off-again winter is providing a lot of opportunities to enjoy two-wheeled recreation. So, you can get out your favorite bicycle and get in some 'practice rides' before Spring officially arrives.
Mark Your Calendars: Bike to Work Day is scheduled for May 18 this year, and Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association anticipate a huge turnout. Nearly 11,000 people bicycled to work during last year's event.
Register Next Month: It's a great way to have fun while also giving bicycling a whirl as an alternative to solo driving. Bike to Work Day is a free non-profit event and is open to all commuters in the Washington area. Registration will open in March.
Look Forward to the Pit Stops: Montgomery County will, as always, be home to many Bike to Work Day 'pit stops' where you will find food, fun and prizes. Official locations and times will be posted in March, but are likely to include: Bethesda-Downtown, Bethesda-NIH Building One, North Bethesda-NIH Executive Blvd., Bethesda-Naval Medical Center, North Bethesda Marriott International-Rock Spring Park, North Bethesda-White Flint Mall, Rockville-Town Center, Rockville-Fallsgrove Transportation Center, Silver Spring-One Discovery Place, and Silver Spring-FDA White Oak.
Visit the bicycle commuting page at MontgomeryCounty.gov
for more details, links and resources.
Telework Week: March 5-9, 2012
Ouch: With gas prices rising almost daily, the cost of driving to work is downright painful. If you're a commuter, you might wonder sometimes whether working from home might be an option. If you're an employer, you might be wishing you could do something to ease those gas pains for your employees.
Jump on the Bandwagon: Telework Week, organized by the locally-based, national organization Telework Exchange, is the perfect time to get serious about exploring the benefits of working remotely. Commuters and employers alike can use the March 5-9 event to give telework a try and discuss questions, fears, hopes, and program how-tos.
2011 Success: The Telework Exchange reports that "during Telework Week 2011, nearly 40,000 pledged, saving $2,730,229 on commuting costs, gaining back 148,692 hours into their day, and removing 1,818 tons of pollutants from the air, while refraining from driving 3,764,001 miles."
Free Set-Up Assistance: Montgomery County Commuter Services can help in two ways. First, we can help employers set up a program that works, and show lessons learned from other employers in the County that have implemented telework solutions. We can also pay for consulting services by outside experts when needed to help set up a system, or to address specific policy or technology issues.
Tax Credit: Second, we can explain how to make the most of the Montgomery County Telework Tax Credit. Employers can get an annual tax credit against the personal property tax for the purchase of a new home computer or new laptop computer (up to 50% of the cost of each new computer) to establish a new off-site employee workstation.
Reach Out: Email us at mcdot.CommuterServices@montgomerycountymd.gov for assistance. Click here for more details on the tax credit.
Surviving Bethesda's BRAC Traffic
We see it coming. And we know you do, too. As road work begins around the BRAC-expanded Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, traffic in the area will become even more challenging.
The Washington Post ran a detailed article on February 8 about which roads will be affected and the timeframe for the work. As the Post quoted one of our colleagues over at Maryland State Highway Administration: "It's a short-term pain to get the gain in the long term."
Montgomery County Commuter Services is here to help. We have no magic wands, but we do strive to connect you with transportation alternatives. Here are some quick suggestions.
- At least one day a week, leave your car at home and try transit, carpooling, bicycling or other options. You might be pleasantly surprised at how easy and less stressful such alternatives can be, even when used only one or two times a week.
- Can any of your work be done remotely from home or another location besides your Bethesda worksite? If so, consider teleworking - again, even if only one day a week. (Let us know if you need help convincing your employer!)
- If you have some flexibility in your work schedule, experiment with coming in earlier or later than usual (with your employer's approval, of course).
- Offer commute benefits to your employees. These might include subsidies for transit use, preferential parking for carpools and vanpools, and shower facilities and secure bike racks for bicycle commuters.
- Expand or create a telework program, so employees in eligible positions can stay off the road while working from home or a remote location. Some managers worry needlessly about such arrangements. We can help advise you in establishing a win-win telework policy.
- Review work schedules and consider whether flexible hours and/or staggered shifts would be feasible.
Sure, travel through BRAC-affected areas of Bethesda will be rough for a while. Let's work together to help minimize the discomfort - and keep commuters moving.
Metro's Track Work Planner:
You're about to head to a Metro station to catch a Red Line train when you suddenly think: "Hey, wait. What if there's track maintenance going on today?" Well, Metro offers an easy way to find out. As the agency works its way through a six-year, $5 billion capital improvement program to bring the system into a state of good repair, Metro posts a weekly announcement. Just visit wmata.com and look at the 'News' links along the right-hand side. Click on the one headlined 'track work planner' for that week's schedule. You can also sign up for personalized e-alerts: http://www.wmata.com/rider_tools/ealerts/.
Germantown Shuttle Reminder: No parking space? No problem! A new shuttle, Ride On Route 94, serves passengers during peak commuting times between the Kingsview Park and Ride Lot, located at Clopper Road (Maryland Route 117) and Kingsview Village Avenue, and the Germantown MARC station. Get details on times and fares here, visit www.rideonbus.com, or call 311 weekdays 7am-5pm.
North Chevy Chase Gets Free Shuttle: A free shuttle bus between the Bethesda Metro Station and the Chevy Chase Lake community in North Chevy Chase has been opened to the public. Operated by the Chevy Chase Land Company, the shuttle used to serve just retail and office tenants at 8401 Connecticut Avenue, but now anyone can ride. The shuttle operates Mon-Fri, 7:00am-7:00pm. Pickups at the Metro and the office building occur approximately every 40 minutes. For details, email the Chevy Chase Land Company.
Give & Ride Campaign: Ride On bus passengers can help needy families and receive a free bus ride by donating canned or nonperishable food during Ride On's 25th annual food drive. Riders who donate will ride free during the Give and Ride campaign, from Sunday, April 22, through Saturday April 28, 2012. Food collection bags will be placed near the fare boxes on all Ride On buses. The donated food goes to Manna Food Center, Montgomery County's food bank.
Winter Weather Reality Check: OK, so we've not had a lot of snow this winter. Still, you just never know when Mother Nature could throw us a surprise blizzard. And when it happens (Hey, snow lovers can dream anyway, right?), you can find out the latest on Montgomery County's slippery-highway preparations at
Individuals interested in helping these areas improve transit and other alternative commute modes of travel are needed.