In Council News, Helen Gym, News by admin

“Commuter Benefits” bill would cut annual employee transit costs by hundreds of dollars

PHILADELPHIA — Today, Councilmember Helen Gym introduced legislation with the majority support of Council to create a commuter benefits program in Philadelphia, empowering thousands of workers to use pre-tax income to cover commuting costs. This program would result in hundreds of dollars of annual savings for employees, while decreasing traffic congestion and emissions to provide safer streets in line with the City’s Vision Zero commitments.

A typical city rider purchasing a monthly transpass from SEPTA would save over $20 a month and $250 a year, with users of more costly rail passes potentially saving up to $1000. This is the latest initiative championed by Councilmember Gym to restore and invest strategically in public transit, following previous advocacy for free fares for children 12 and under, SEPTA’s Institutional Pass program, the creation of a transit equity task force, and the elimination of transfer fees.

“Bringing new riders into Philadelphia’s public transit network is critical both to our city’s recovery and safety,” said Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large). “This program will make our transit system more accessible to countless Philadelphians — and we know that a busier transit system is a safer transit system.”

The bill would require employers with 50 or more full-time employees in Philadelphia to offer a commuter benefit program, which can be used for public transit passes and fares, van-pooling, and pending federal authorization, bicycle expenses. Similar programs have been launched in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington DC.

“Decreasing emissions and traffic congestion will help our communities breathe easier,” said Gym. “I will continue to work on new initiatives that make our city’s transit network more accessible and affordable.”

“SEPTA is strongly interested in working with the City to expand opportunities to build ridership,” said Michael Carroll, Deputy Managing Director at the Office for Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability and SEPTA Board Member. “The positive reception of SEPTA’s institutional pass program shows us that there is tremendous untapped demand for transit use across the workforce. The commuter benefit bill is an excellent way to leverage the benefits programs many large employers already have to compete for talent, improve job access, grow transit ridership and fight congestion all in one move.”

“The health and safety of our city and our planet requires wide use of public transit,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large). “In order to increase public transit ridership, we must make SEPTA and other forms of green travel like bicycle commuting affordable and accessible for all. I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill and I commend Councilmember Gym’s efforts to reduce emissions and create savings for working class people.”

“Between inflation and record-high gas prices, too many Philadelphians are experiencing financial strain — and because of that, we should be doing everything we can to cut their costs elsewhere,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District). “Councilmember Gym’s commuter benefits legislation does exactly that – and because public transit use also reduces road congestion and emissions, it’s good for our collective public health as well. I’m grateful to Councilmember Gym for her leadership, and am proud to cosponsor this bill.”

“Clean Air Council strongly supports the Commuter Benefits Legislation introduced by Councilmember Gym,” said Nick Zuwiala-Rogers, Transportation Program Director at the Clean Air Council. “The Council has been encouraging employers to voluntarily adopt pre-tax transit programs for more than a decade, and many of the City’s leading employers have already done so. This legislation will be a win-win for employees, businesses, and the environment. In addition to the individual and employer tax savings, businesses will increase their competitiveness to recruit employees who want to take advantage of Philadelphia’s extensive transit system. The environment stands to see major benefits from this legislation. Now, more than ever, we must get people out of single-occupancy vehicles and increase transit ridership to reduce air pollution.”

“As Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, I know that fortifying public transit ridership is essential for the future of our city, and that’s exactly what this legislation will do,” said Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District). “These incentives will help thousands of Philadelphia families save hundreds of dollars, while increasing revenue for public transit at the same time — providing more resources to invest in and improve our transit infrastructure. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation.”

“As we continue to work toward a safer, greener, and more livable Philadelphia for all our citizens – both present and future – the time is now to think and act proactively rather than reactively,” said Councilmember Derek Green (At-Large). “Councilmember Gym’s legislation offers an opportunity for the City to do just that; keeping Philadelphians a top priority in matters of economic security and reliable means of public transportation, public safety, and sustainability. I’m proud to support this legislative package and I look forward to further collaboration with the Kenney Administration and others to achieve its outlined objectives.”

“The Community Benefits legislation will be a great tool in helping Philadelphians get to their worksites, save people money, and improve ridership on SEPTA,” said Councilmember Cherelle Parker (9th District). “Our Mass Transit system is one of the most essential elements needed to help our regional economy thrive.”

“I am pleased to support this legislation,” said Councilmember Mark Squilla (1st District). “As our City returns to “normal”, an incentive for public transit ridership will benefit both commuters and businesses, while reducing congestion, accidents and pollution.”

“Making it easier for Philadelphians to take public transit is a crucial part of our strategy to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), Chair of City Council’s Committee on the Environment. “We need to take a collaborative approach to addressing climate change and environmental justice, and the commuter benefits bill is an important step forward. Thank you to Councilmember Gym for introducing this bill and to the Administration for their partnership.”

“This legislation is an important step forward in winning safer streets for every neighborhood and will be critical in achieving Philadelphia’s Vision Zero commitments,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, Executive Director at the Bicycle Coalition for Greater Philadelphia. “Incentivizing public transportation and bicycle usage will be instrumental in shifting our city’s paradigm toward sustainable forms of transit, and ultimately, in creating healthier communities. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is proud to support Councilmember Gym’s commuter benefits legislation and shares her commitment to expanding mobility access and equity to every community.”

“This commuter benefits legislation will undoubtedly support Philly’s economic recovery, cut street congestion, support public transit, and improve our climate and air quality outcomes — all while saving money for commuters who choose an alternative to driving,” said Will Tung, Organizer at 5th Square. “5th Square is proud to support this initiative to expand transit equity and access to workers across Philadelphia.”

“Transit Forward Philadelphia is excited and absolutely delighted that Councilmember Gym has introduced legislation to not only incentivize public transit use throughout the city but uplift the principles of transit equity for all Philadelphians,” said Yasha Zarrinkelk, Coalition Manager and Organizer at Transit Forward Philadelphia. “If passed, the Employee Commuter Transit Benefit Program will save low-income Philadelphians up to $280 a month on transportation costs that can then be used for housing, groceries, or medical care. Due to the high cost of car ownership and absurd gas prices, Philadelphians need and deserve an alternative transportation option. Those who rely and depend on SEPTA every day, historically, low-income residents and communities of color, will not only benefit the most from this program but the Commuter Transit Benefit Program will help to ameliorate years of racial and income transit inequity.”

This legislation is being introduced in partnership with the Philadelphia Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability and Mayor Kenney’s Administration. The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (District 3), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), Derek Green (At-Large), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Cherelle Parker (9th District), Mark Squilla (1st District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).


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