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Friday
May132016

MassCommute Supports Commuter Transit Benefits in MA

May 11th, 2016

After testifying before the Massachusetts State Legislature calling for the state’s tax code to reflect changes made to the Federal transportation fringe benefit, MassCommute submitted the following letter in support of a new bill by Senator Keenan that would make transit parity a reality for Massachusetts commuters:

Download pdf 

Representative Dempsey, Chairman

House Way and Means Committee

Room 243,State House

Boston, MA 02133

Re: S2217 - An Act relative to commuter transit benefits

Dear Chairman Dempsey,

On behalf of MassCommute, the Massachusetts statewide coalition of Transportation Management Associations (TMAs), I am writing to express our support for S.2217 “An Act relative to commuter transit benefits” sponsored by Senator Keenan and reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Revenue last week.  The TMAs of MassCommute collectively represent over 300 businesses and employers with more than 300,000 employees in 42 municipalities across the Commonwealth. As public private partnerships, we work collaboratively to create innovative solutions to transportation challenges that reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and increase opportunities for economic development.

Earlier this year, we stood with our partners at Transportation for Massachusetts and the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) to applaud the Commuter Benefit provision that was added to federal legislation to ensure permanent parity for public transportation and bike commuters thanks in large part to the hard work of Massachusetts 2nd Congressional District Representative Jim McGovern. For much of the past 25 years, automobile commuters have enjoyed a disproportionate benefit, providing an incentive for drivers and leading to congestion and pollution. Parity is important so that people and employers can make commuting choices that are best for them, and we know that employees are significantly more likely to choose transit as a result of this legislation.

Unfortunately, inequities in the Federal cap for transit and vanpools and the Massachusetts cap for parking and vanpools create a system that is confusing and serves as a disincentive for many employers to offer the benefit. Massachusetts is one of only three states (that we are aware of) in which the cap on transportation benefits does not automatically increase with the Federal cap.

A 2011 study conducted by the Commuter Benefit Work for Us Coalition found that 77% of small businesses and corporations said they were somewhat or very concerned about inequities in the transit benefit and 60% of large companies with offices in more than one metropolitan area stated that they feared employees would decide to look for elsewhere.

The transit benefit has been used as a tool to promote transit use, conserve energy, improve the environment, and ease congestion. The same study by the Commuter Benefits Work for Us Coalition found that more than 3 million working Americans across the country utilize this benefit. Based on the approximately 150,000 people who use the transit benefit in Massachusetts-the Association for Commuter Transportation estimates that if those people were to stop using transit and drive to work alone it would create a line of cars sitting bumper to bumper from Boston, MA to Baltimore Maryland, with another 18 miles worth of cars to spare.

Employers recognize the transit benefit is an effective tool in recruitment and retention of good employees. However, the burden of a multi-tiered system often outweighs the benefits. The data stated above is reflected in some of the anecdotal evidence we have seen. Small businesses may not offer the transit benefit because of the complexity dealing with different Federal cap and State caps. In the same vein, companies that have employees around the nation opt to not offer the benefit at all to Massachusetts employees in lieu of creating accounting systems designed for only a small segment of their employee base.

The transit benefit helps reduce congestion, improve air quality, and conserve energy, all of which are well established state goals in Massachusetts. Our policies should look to support transit benefit usage, not provide barriers. We strongly urge this Committee to act swiftly on S.2217 and urge its passage as soon as possible to correct this technical abnormality. 

Please do not hesitate to contact either of us to discuss this further

Respectfully,

 

 

Julia Prange Wallerce, Executive Director                                    Patrick Sullivan, Managing Director

 

 

 

Thursday
Mar242016

Over 200 Employers Recognized at 2016 ECO Awards

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Today, MassCommute, MassRIDES and the Baker Administration celebrated more than 220 Massachusetts businesses, colleges, and universities at the sixth annual Massachusetts Excellence in Commuter Options (ECO) Awards ceremony. Attendees were recognized for their efforts in promoting active, healthy, and sustainable travel options.

The event, held at historic Fenway Park, brings together businesses and institutions from across the Commonwealth that provide innovative programs and resources to encourage employees to travel by public transit, carpool, vanpool, bicycling, walking, or even teleworking. This year’s event recognized the largest number of employers to date.

“Massachusetts continues to be an innovator in promotion of shared use of infrastructure on roadways,” said Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary and CEO, Stephanie Pollack. “By establishing numerous policies to emphasize consideration of all travel options when designing roadways, MassDOT has helped to reduce the amount of emissions put forth by single-occupancy vehicles throughout the Commonwealth.”

The ECO Awards are hosted by MassCommute in collaboration with MassRIDES, the Statewide Travel Options Program and MassDOT. MassRIDES and MassCommute actively support over 700 employer partners and member organizations across the Commonwealth in an effort to reduce drive-alone trips, while encouraging employees to travel by public transit, carpool, vanpool, bicycling, walking, or teleworking.

“It’s important to recognize the role employers play in influencing employee commuting,” said MassRIDES Director, Diane Hanson. “Because of these employers, MassRIDES and MassCommute are able to actively work with thousands of commuters to reduce vehicle emissions, traffic congestion, and commuting costs.”

MassCommute Executive Director, Julia Prange Wallerce, echoed this sentiment, “We’re excited to have new and returning employers at this year’s sixth annual ECO Awards. This awards ceremony is a great way to call attention to the efforts of these employers, as they continue to showcase their innovative commuter options initiatives.”

The awards ceremony celebrated the efforts of over 220 MassRIDES and MassCommute partners. Eight employers were recognized for outstanding accomplishments, including:

Leadership in Commuter Options

• MIT Lincoln Laboratory: Vanpool
• University of Massachusetts Boston: Walk
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Transit
• Digital Lumens: Bicycle
• Massachusetts General Hospital: Carpool

Leadership in Commuter Engagement

• Worcester State University: Employer Transportation Coordinator

Rising Star

• Six Flags New England

Leadership in Innovation

• Eastern Bank

The ECO Awards Ceremony is presented with sponsorships from Eastern Bank, Taza Chocolate, Ride Systems, vRide, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, NuRide, Lyft, Edenred, AECOM, Ride, TransAction Associates, 128 Business Council, and Charles River TMA. The generous support of these sponsors allows for greater recognition of sustainable transportation efforts throughout the Commonwealth.

Thank you to our sponsors and congratulations to this year's ECO Award winners!

View event program for complete list of award categories and winners

Friday
Mar182016

MassCommute & T4Mass Applaud Commuter Benefit Provision

March 10, 2016

Together with our partners at Transportation for Massachusetts and the Association for Commuter Transportation, MassCommute applauds the Commuter Benefit provision in recent federal legislation that will ensure permanent parity for public transportation and bike commuters.

We are grateful for the leadership of Representative McGovern for his work to provide all commuters with fairness in allowing pretax deductions for commuting expenses. For much of the past 25 years, automobile commuters have enjoyed a disproportionate benefit, providing an incentive for drivers and leading to congestion and pollution. Parity is important so that people and employers can make commuting choices that are best for them.

We also acknowledge the excellent and sustained advocacy of Commuter Benefit Works for Us.

Employees are significantly more likely to use transit as a result of this legislation, according to research by TransitCenter.

This is a milestone achievement to promote individual commuter choice and sound transportation policy, and we thank the Congressmen and his colleagues for their diligence. We look forward to working with the state legislature to ensure that Massachusetts is fully aligned with the benefit parity. Stay tunes!

Wednesday
Mar022016

MassCommute Letter to MassDOT re: Proposed Commuter Rail Schedule Changes

In response to the proposed changes to the MBTA Commuter Rail schedules, set to take effect this May, MassCommute prepared a letter of detailed comments and feedback generated from direct outreach to the 300,000+ commuters served by our TMAs. 
February 22, 2016
Frank DePaola, General Manager & CEO
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza Boston, MA

Re: Proposed MBTA Commuter Rail Schedule Changes 
Dear Mr.DePaola,
On behalf of the twelve Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) of MassCommute, and the 300+ businesses and 300,000+ employees we serve, we would like to thank you for this opportunity to provide feedback on the recently proposed 2016 schedule changes to the MBTA Commuter Rail. As you know, the Commuter Rail provides critical connections to jobs and services and acts as both a driver of our economic engine and a determinant of our quality of life here in the Commonwealth. Our TMAs have reviewed the proposed schedule changes in detail and have engaged with commuters in their service areas extensively to generate feedback. The following comments are a collection of that feedback as well as of the analyses of MassCommute TMA staff:  Read complete letter

 

Wednesday
Mar022016

MassCommute Joins 26 Organizations Urging MBTA to Hold 5% Fare Increase Cap

MassCommute joined 26 fellow members of the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition in co-signing a letter urging the MBTA to respect the 5% cap on fare increases.  Let's #KeepFaresFair!

February 22, 2016

Dear Fiscal and Management Control Board Members:

Our organizations oppose both fare hike proposals that have been proposed, and strongly urge you to adopt a proposal that raises fares by no greater than an average of 5%. The two proposals raise fares by amounts that are neither modest nor predictable. Neither conforms to the fare cap that was widely understood by riders, organizations, many legislators, and the media to allow for fares to rise only 5% every two years, and which was respected in 2014. 

Comments at public meetings and in other forums have been almost unanimously in opposition to these scenarios, and we ask that you take this public input, from riders, legislators, students, and those from the public health, businesses, environmental, and education communities into serious consideration.

Raising fares as proposed, will most hurt riders who have no other options, including seniors, people with disabilities, youth, and low-income riders. These proposals would mean that bus riders, who are on the whole of lower income than riders overall, would pay 16% to 20% more per month; students would pay 23% more per month; and commuters from a Gateway City like Brockton would pay up to $288 more per year. The fare increase would also cost the Boston school system $1.4 million.

Current riders who have the opportunity to drive may give up the MBTA, especially with gas prices so low. In fact, the MBTA’s own analysis shows that the proposed fare increases will result in a loss of ridership. This moves the state in the wrong direction. The MBTA should be seeking to increase ridership. A loss in ridership has negative consequences for everyone who lives in the 175 cities and towns in the MBTA service area: more congestion, more wear and tear on the roads, and more greenhouse gases. In addition, raising the fares for monthly passes will hurt businesses that pay for employees to commute on the MBTA.

The MBTA has said that fare increases above 5% are necessary to close the MBTA’s operating deficit for next year. However, combining a 5% fare increase ($23 million), proposed state budget assistance that is kept flat from last year ($187 million), and a low-estimate of cost savings identified through the hard work of the Control Board and MBTA management ($55 million) provide sufficient resources to wholly eliminate the operating deficit for FY2017. With the deficit closed and state assistance flat, why are we asking riders to put in more than their fair share?

Finally, MBTA management has said that fare increases will lead to better service. It is well known that the MBTA needs additional revenue to fund necessary repairs, maintenance, accessibility and safety improvements, and capacity enhancements. However, our understanding from officials is that the MBTA cannot spend more on capital investments next year, even if it had more money available. We would welcome a clearer explanation of how the MBTA would achieve service efficiencies and enhancements that would help to improve the rider experience and reduce the state of good repair backlog.

We urge you to put riders first and to honor the 5% fare cap, we thank you for your consideration of this letter, and we commend your hard work to improve the MBTA.

Sincerely,

350 Massachusetts
Acadia Center
Alliance for Business Leadership
Arborway Committee
Boston Cyclists Union
Congress for New Urbanism, New England Chapter
Conservation Law Foundation
Environmental League of Massachusetts
League of Women Voters
LivableStreets Alliance
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations
Massachusetts Communities Action Network
Massachusetts Public Health Association
Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group
Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance
MassBike
MassCommute
Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Neighbor to Neighbor – Massachusetts
New England Venture Capital Association
Somerville Community Corporation
Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership
TransitMatters
Transportation for Massachusetts
WalkBoston