Published January 15, 2013
Volume 21, Number 1

SB 1339 Attacks Air Pollution through New Commute Benefit

Identifying transportation as “the largest source of air pollution in the Bay Area,” the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) have deemed it imperative to reduce the growth in vehicle miles traveled in order to achieve the state’s “bold climate targets.”

Senate Bill 1339, authored by Senator Leland Yee and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 30, 2012, is an important new commuter policy tool intended to help the Bay Area meet this challenge.

“About 40 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions result from commuting,” Yee pointed out when the bill passed through committee last April.  By promoting alternatives to driving alone, employer-offered commute benefits can help accomplish the intertwined goals of reducing air pollution and traffic congestion.

SB 1339 authorizes a four-year program to enable the Air District and the MTC to jointly adopt a regional commute benefit requirement. Businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will have the flexibility to offer them one of the following options:
  • paying for their transit, vanpooling, or bicycling expenses with pre-tax dollars, as allowed by federal law;
  • a transit or vanpool subsidy up to $75 per month;
  • a free shuttle or vanpool operated by or for the employer; or
  • an alternative program that provides similar benefits in reducing single-occupant vehicles.
Any business located in Hacienda will automatically comply with the new law by virtue of the comprehensive commute benefit package available to every employee and every tenant within the park. This is primarily accomplished through the free WHEELS pass that can be ordered through the Hacienda website, at www.hacienda.org/tenants/tenants_commute_pass.html, and other incentive programs. Businesses can contact the Hacienda Owners Association for additional information at (925) 734-6500.

When fully implemented throughout the region, this benefit “has the potential to save employees hundreds of dollars per year, while helping reduce traffic congestion and improve ridership on our region’s extensive public transit system. We are excited to be carrying this idea forward from the local level to the regional level, where it will benefit over a million Bay Area workers,” MTC Chair Adrienne Tissier announced on the bill’s signing.

Building on the success of similar requirements adopted in the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Richmond, as well as the San Francisco International Airport, SB 1339 facilitates a regional approach to involving employers in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The new law authorizes the Air District and MTC to adopt this policy on or after January 1, 2013, and the two agencies are in the midst of developing plans for drafting and implementing the requirement. They will be seeking input from employers as part of the process. Schedules for adoption are currently under consideration and have not yet been finalized. Once the policy is adopted, affected businesses will have an additional six months to comply.

To stay up to date on the latest information about the policy, visit http://rideshare.511.org/employers/. The 511 Rideshare program sends out an electronic newsletter with updates to registered employers. To be included on the distribution list, contact Linda Furnas at furnas@rideshare.511.org, or 510-541-8505.

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