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News > Changes coming for commuter program
Changes coming for commuter program

Posted 11/18/2010   Updated 11/18/2010 Email story   Print story

    


by Sarah Olaciregui
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


11/18/2010 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Hanscom personnel who take advantage of commuting opportunities may soon notice some changes in the coming months when the Commuter eBoard website goes offline and the allowance on the monthly transit benefit is reduced.

The amount of the monthly transit benefit will be reduced from $230 to $120 beginning on Jan. 1, 2011. This will mostly affect commuters who take the shuttle from Nashua, N.H., to Hanscom.

The $230 covers the cost for commuters who to ride from New Hampshire to Hanscom. As a result of the reduction of benefits, there will be an increase in out of pocket expenses for Nashua shuttle riders.

"We will have to wait and see how many people decide to pay the difference to keep riding Transaction Shuttle," said Cindy Frene, Transaction Associates president. "If we have between 48 to 50 monthly riders, then we can continue the service. Of course, if we have to discontinue the service, we will give our riders plenty of notice before doing so."

In February 2009, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) increased the monthly tax exclusion amount for transit benefits from $120 to $230, by amending the Internal Revenue Code that establishes the statutory maximum limit.

"Section 1151 of ARRA will sunset on January 1, 2011," said Cynthia Shufflebarger, program manager for the Transportation Benefits Program. "Currently we interpret this to mean that the tax exclusion amount will revert to the previous limit of $120 a month. At this time there is no further information from the Internal Revenue Service nor anticipated Congressional action to extend the $230 limit."

For the upcoming quarterly distribution for November, December and January, the Department of Transportation will provide fares up to the current maximum benefit amount for the first two months of the quarter. For January, DOT will only provide up to the previous benefit amount of $120.

"Should new information be issued by the IRS regarding changes to the Internal Revenue Code we will promptly provide it to you," said Ms. Shufflebarger. "Should the amount increase significantly from the $120 limit, DOT will take steps to provide additional fares to cover the difference."

In addition to the reduction in reimbursement fees, the Hanscom Commuter eBoard, located on the Electronic Systems Center's CenterNet, will be removed.

Currently, the site allows users to find ride matches for a voluntary carpooling program. The section, called HanscomRIDES, allows personnel to find other commuters who live near them, work similar schedules and are interested in carpooling to and from Hanscom.

In addition to ride matching, the site allowed users to obtain information on travel options such as the Nashua-Hanscom shuttle, MassRIDES, the Transportation Incentive Program and much more.

As an interim measure, all information contained on the Commuter eBoard site, other than the HanscomRIDES section, will be available on the ESC common drive located in the 66 CES Commuter Information folder.

The site was an initiative of the Transportation Demand Management Plan, which combined marketing and incentive programs aimed at reducing the use of single occupant vehicles.

Although the TDMP will still be in effect, the information process will revert back to traditional paper copy distribution, such as posters or handouts, and e-mail distribution.

"The ride matching feature, as well as the ability to track usage of the program, will be lost," said Susan Panacopoulos, commuter manager for the Commuter Management office. "In the long term we will explore the possibility of finding funding to obtain contract support to re-establish this service."

For further information about these changes, contact the Commuter Management office at 781-377-2904 or 781-377-7950.



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