Commuting during the holidays presents a unique set of challenges. Hours of operation might be shortened or regular routes might be changed or temporarily unavailable. Unexpected delays from weather are more frequent and can make it feel impossible to arrive on time. (No matter how early you leave). Finally, there’s the element of determining how many days you’ll be commuting, working from home, or off.
Thankfully, commuting during the holidays doesn’t have to be a hassle. To manage your stress, adjust your commuting schedule to match your holiday work schedule.
Pick the scenario that fits your holiday travels and follow the advice for a winter that’s merry and bright.
Scenario 1: You have a mix of vacation days, working from home, and commuting
Although you can change your mass transit or parking election for long trips, in this case, we advise leaving your monthly election alone. Accounts are generally set up to pre-fund your commute for the coming month, not the current month. If you make an election change now, you’ll likely be short for the next month, which is not a good way to ring in the New Year.
Instead, you might find it beneficial to buy weekly or daily passes instead of a monthly pass. It’ll give you more options and you won’t pay for passes you can’t use. Remember, if you can’t use all the funds in your account during a given month, they roll over into the next month (and into next year).
Scenario 2: You are working through the holidays with no vacation.
If your normal train schedule is running on a shortened schedule, don’t let that mean you get stranded at the office. Alternative options like Shared Rides and uberPOOL are still available if you have a mass transit account.
Scenario 3: You’re starting a new job next month.
As outlined in Scenario 1, funds rollover month to month and into the next year as long as you stay with your current employer.
If you’re coming up on a new job with the New Year and you haven’t used up all the funds in your parking and transit accounts, don’t fret yet. While legislation from 2014 prohibits your company from providing you with the unused cash balance, you may have options to use your remaining funds.
If you have unused funds remaining in your account(s), you likely have some time to use them. Commuter Benefits funds are typically available through the end of the month after you leave the company. (i.e. Your last day is Dec. 15. You will have until January 31 to use your funds.)
Additionally, your company may offer additional ways to use funds post-employment. Be on the look out for any communications regarding your options.
Scenario 4: You’ll be gone for a month or more (vacation, parental leave, etc.)
In this case, we advise reducing your monthly election. Your company will probably have a cutoff date when election changes need to be completed. To make the cutoff, adjust your election the month before you leave. Again, accounts are generally set up to pre-fund your commute for the coming month, not the current month.
If you miss making the election change the month before you leave, you may have additional time the beginning of the month you are going out of town. Check with your employer on custom cutoff times for your company.
Commuting during the holidays doesn’t have to be a hassle
If you have a long commute coming up, stay productive with these tips.