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Commuter Benefits Mandates. Bay Area Today, Metropolitan Areas Across the Country Soon!

San Francisco Bay Area is commonly known as a technological and entrepreneurial center. And for good reason. Many of the great tech giants got their start and are headquartered in the Bay Area.  Additionally, the Bay Area has also started programs like Healthy San Francisco which requires employers of a certain size to contribute towards health insurance or health care expenses. While the program specifics are different, you could say Healthy San Francisco was a precursor to the employer mandate which is now part of Obamacare. Recently, the Bay Area made an expanded commitment to environmental consciousness with the introduction of commuter benefits mandates called the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program.

Through the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program, all employers in the nine county Bay Area with 50 or more employees will be required to offer and register a commuter benefits program by September 30, 2014. The San Francisco Commuter Benefits Ordinance remains in place for the City of San Francisco. Employers are provided four options that may be used to become compliant. One approved option is to offer a pre-tax mass transit program, such as a Beniversal Commute / eTRAC Commute program.

So it begs the question, if Healthy San Francisco provided a precedent for Obamacare, will the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program lead all metropolitan areas across the country to require a commuter benefits program?

How would a mandated commuter benefits program affect you?  If you are already utilizing a pre-tax commuter benefit program, what advice would you share with employers and participants who are considering a program?

UPDATE: April 29, 2014: New York City Council member, Dan Garodnick, announced legislation that would require all employers in New York City with 20 or more workers to give them the option to pay for transit with pre-tax dollars. In a press statement, Garodnick indicated, “he hopes the initiative can be approved and implemented within a matter of months…[Although] we want to be sensitive to the fact that it would take some time to start up.”