Tax Breaks Encourage Commuters to Drive, Not Ride

A stimulus-era incentive to take transit is ending, but parking is still incentivized.

By Chris Roberts
|  Wednesday, Dec 28, 2011  |  Updated 9:10 AM PDT
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Tax Breaks Encourages Driving

Transit riders' tax incentive to take trains rather than drive will be cut in half.

A federal stimulus-era program that allowed Bay Area transit commuters to deduct costly rail passes from their taxes is ending -- but financial incentives to park motor vehicles are being increased.

Transit commuters used to be able to deduct up to $230 a month from their taxes on transit passes, according to the San Francisco Examiner. The program will expire after partisan bickering allowed it to end, a spokesman for Rep. Nancy Pelosi says, which means that commuters may now deduct a maximum of $125 a month.

A deduction for parking costs, however, was increased to $240 a month, the newspaper said.

That sends the wrong message, according to transit advocates.

A monthly Caltrain pass costs $338 for someone traveling from San Jose to San Francisco, the newspaper observed. It costs $400 to get from Santa Rosa to San Francisco on Golden Gate Transit.

Before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in March 2009, commuters could deduct only $120 a month from their taxes to cover transportation costs. President Obama's Tax Relief and Job Creation Act extended the program to the end of 2011.

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