Transit Incentive Program
|Purpose of this Subchapter||This Subchapter gives employees information needed to understand the Subchapter transit incentive program in USDA's Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP): Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).|
|Related Regulations||This Subchapter supplements the regulations stated in MRP Directive 4080.1 (PDF).|
|General Program Guidelines||MRP will pay for all eligible employees' actual commuting costs, up to $125 per month.
To be eligible, employees must use public transportation and/or a registered vanpool for their daily roundtrip commute to and from work.
Carpool - An arrangement between two or more USDA employees to commute to and from work on a daily basis for the purpose of receiving a Free Federal Parking Benefit (FFPB). A carpool does not qualify as a Commuter Highway Vehicle (Qualified Vanpool).
Cash Reimbursement - Agency reimbursement for an individual's actual mass transportation commuting costs payable where there are no vouchers or other forms of fare media available in the city to and from which the individual commutes, or where such vouchers or other forms of fare media are temporarily unavailable.
Commuter Benefits Program Coordinator (CBPC) - The designated mission area/agency/staff office individual responsible for administering and overseeing the program.
Employee - A Federal employee as defined by U.S.C. Section 2105, Government Organization and Employees, or a student volunteer providing services under that Section.
Free Federal Parking Benefits (FFPB) - Parking space on limited-access federally owned or leased property provided without charge to a specified employee or the individual members of a carpool.
Metro Access - A shared ride transportation service available throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area offered in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for individuals who are unable to use public transit due to disability. The shared ride means that multiple passengers may ride together in the same vehicle.
Customers are encouraged to pay for each trip using a SmarTrip card and can now direct the monthly transit benefits to Metro Access. At the beginning of each month, the employee can call or log in to their account to review their balance and transaction history. To direct transit benefits to Metro Access through an employee account, the employee must have a registered SmarTrip card and be enrolled in SmartBenefits. For more information on SmartBenefits, contact the employer or transit benefits provider.
National Capital Region (NCR) - Per Executive Order 13150, the NCR consists of the District of Columbia; Montgomery, Prince George's, and Frederick Counties in Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties in Virginia, within the geographic area bounded by the outer boundaries of the combined area of the counties listed above.
Pre-Tax Parking Benefit - Agencies and Staff Offices may implement a program whereby qualified employees may exclude certain parking expenses from their taxable income.
Smart Benefits - Electronic media for participants using Metro Rail, Metro Bus, Qualified Vanpools, Metro Access, or other participating transit systems within the NCR. At the participant's discretion, SmartBenefits are either electronically added each month to a participant's registered SmarTrip card or registered to the participant's vanpool or other participating transit system.
SmarTrip Autoload - With Autoload, the benefits will remain in an account, like a debit card. The SmarTrip card will access the account and deduct the fare or parking fee when the employee taps his/her card to a Metrorail faregate or bus farebox. To access his/her account, the employee must use his/her SmarTrip card at least once in the last two weeks prior to the first benefits month. This action prepares the SmarTrip card to access the account. This is only important if the employee had not planned on using their SmarTrip card in the last two weeks of the month. Autoload works on Metro Rail, Metro Bus and the following regional bus systems: ART, CUE, DASH, DC Circulator, Fairfax Connector, Loudoun County Transit, PRTC Omniride, Ride On and The Bus.
Student Volunteers - PL 107-296, Homeland Security Act of 2002, contained a provision that extended coverage under this benefit to student volunteers that meet the criteria of 5 U.S.C. 3111 "acceptance of volunteer service".
Qualified Transit Facility Cost - The cost of fare media or similar item entitling a person to transportation (or transportation at a reduced price) on qualified transit facilities.
Qualified Transit Facilities - Private or publicly-owned mass transit systems. This includes, but is not limited to, buses, subways, rail, light rail, elevated rail, streetcars, trolleys, ferries, and qualified vanpools.
Qualified Vanpool (Commuter Highway Vehicle) - A highway vehicle with a seating capacity of at least six adults (not including the driver). At least 80 percent of the mileage use of this vehicle can reasonably be expected to be for transporting persons between their residences and their places of employment. During the majority of such trips, the number of persons transported is at least half of the adult seating capacity of the vehicle (not including the driver). In the National Capital Region, vanpools must be registered with the Washington Metro Transit Authority (MTA). In other locations, vanpools must be registered with the local transportation authority in order that local fare media may be provided in lieu of cash reimbursement.
TRANServe Debit Card - As of December 13, 2011, paper vouchers have been eliminated for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for TRANServe customers who ride VRE, MARC and/or MTA Commuter Buses. These customers will now use the TRANServe Debit Card. This change creates an easier, safer, and a more convenient way to get the transit benefit. The benefits are deposited directly to the TRANServe Debit Card on the same day each month; there are no more paper vouchers to be lost or stolen. Instead, benefit payments are deposited directly onto the TRANServe Debit Card. This will allow using the card to purchase monthly transit fare media (train tickets, bus passes, etc.) from authorized mass transit merchants displaying the VISA logo. Employees should contact their agency Transit Benefit Coordinator (TBC) for additional information and instructions for obtaining, activating and using the TRANServe Debit Card.
WMATA SmartBenefits Purse Implementation - In order to comply with IRS requirements (Internal Revenue Bulletin Rev.Rul.2006-57), WMATA has restricted the parking and transit benefit comingled use; in doing so, "Purses" have been created within each rider's SmartBenefits account. These funds stored on participant's SmartBenefits account will be separated into a Transit Benefit Purse, Personal Purse, and Parking Benefits Purse. These funds will not be transferrable from one purse to another and the funds in the Parking Benefit Purse cannot be used to pay for transit. The details of each Purse are as follows:
(1) Transit Benefit Purse: Funds from the Transit Benefit Purse will be used first, whether the funds are used for personal or work commuting. Funds within the Transit Benefit Purse are paid for by the agency of employment. The funds cannot be used for parking, nor can the funds be transferred to the Parking Benefit Purse or Personal Purse. Balances can be viewed at WMATA fare gates, fare boxes, and through an on-line SmarTrip account.