The federal transit tax benefit returns

Light orange cells aren't covered fully by the federal benefit but are covered by federal + state benefits. Dark orange cells aren't fully covered by either. Lost in the madness of last night’s fiscal cliff vote were a slew of earmarks, including a provision reinstating the $240 transit tax benefit, and that’s fantastic news for Golden Gate Transit commuters.

The new benefit means the total cost of all but the furthest trips will be covered by a federal tax benefit. Those who are not fully covered – namely commuters between San Francisco/Southern Marin and Sonoma – will see more money in their pocket.

If large employers tacked on California’s $75 transit benefit to the federal benefit, rather than overlapping the two, only the Santa Rosa-San Francisco commute will remain partially covered.

Somehow, this benefit is retroactive to the start of 2012, though it’s unlikely anyone will be able to claim tax relief for those months gone by, as it’s unclear how that would work in reverse.

This is the first time the transit benefit has been in alignment with the parallel $240 parking benefit. Though the old and expired $230 benefit approached the parking benefit, it still needlessly biased federal policy towards driving at the expense of transit.

Alas, the benefit isn’t permanent. Unless Congress renews it, the benefit will revert back to its previous $125 level.