Lawmakers back bill allowing transit benefits to apply to Uber

Lawmakers back bill allowing transit benefits to apply to Uber

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers has introduced new legislation that would allow federal workers to use their transit benefits on other transportation options while Washington's Metrorail system undergoes a yearlong repair effort.

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Under the bill, backed by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyCongress must enact a plan to keep government workers safe Trump's postmaster general is playing with political fire USAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency MORE (D-Va.), the federal government’s public transit subsidy would apply to ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, and bike-rental programs like Capital Bikeshare.

Service delays and frequent safety issues have frustrated workers in the Washington area. In March, the entire rail system was shut down for over 24 hours for emergency inspections and repairs.

“The federal government must offer commuters as many options as possible to mitigate these challenges,” Connolly said in a statement. “The ridesharing economy offers a unique and flexible alternative until full Metro service is restored and should be an option for our federal workforce as they maintain a continuity of operations for the federal government.”

The transit benefit program allows employees to set aside up to $255 per month from their pre-tax wages.

The measure from Connolly and Meadows would only allow the subsidy to apply to alternative options while Metro undergoes its massive maintenance plan, known as SafeTrack, which began last month and is scheduled to end in March.

Metro officials have urged passengers to use alternative transit options or telework during the repair effort, which involves both single-tracking and shutting down sections of the railway.

At hearings on Metro safety earlier this year, some lawmakers lamented that many of their staff members have started using ride-hailing apps instead of public transportation.

“Federal commuters have been frustrated at their lack of options for getting into work,” Meadows said. “Many of the frequent, random delays on the Metro have caused some federal workers to arrive late, miss meetings, or lose out on valuable work time.”

Even though the legislation enjoys bipartisan support, there are just five days — and many other items on the agenda — before lawmakers break for their summer recess.

An aide said the measure will likely be marked up in September, in which case the bill's backers may want to see its language tweaked so the subsidy would apply retroactively from when SafeTrack first began.

“This bill will allow federal workers to expand their commuting options and not require them to depend on a sole, unreliable from of transportation,” Meadows said.