House panel backs bill letting fed workers use transit benefits on Uber

House panel backs bill letting fed workers use transit benefits on Uber

Relief may be coming for federal workers whose commutes have been disrupted by Washington Metrorail’s massive repair effort.

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The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee swiftly advanced legislation Thursday that would allow federal employees to temporarily use their transit benefits on ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft or taxicabs and bike-rental programs like Capital Bikeshare.

The transit benefit program permits government workers to set aside up to $255 per month from their pre-tax wages for public transportation.

Under the measure sailing through the House, which was introduced this summer by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyOvernight Energy: Watchdog warns of threats to federal workers on public lands | Perry to step down on December 1 | Trump declines to appear in Weather Channel climate special Perry won't comply with subpoena in impeachment inquiry Trump confirms Rick Perry to step down as Energy secretary MORE (D-Va.), the subsidy could apply to alternative options for the duration of Metro’s “SafeTrack” project.

But following news that the construction program would take longer to complete than expected, bill sponsors extended the bill’s deadline to last through 2018.

Metro officials have urged passengers to use alternative transit options or telework during the maintenance effort. The rail system — which is the second largest in the nation and carries a large swath of the federal workforce — is currently undergoing a 42-day stretch of single-tracking and weekend closures on the Orange Line between Vienna and East Falls Church.

Lawmakers have complained that major delays and closures on Metro have caused some federal employees to arrive late, miss meetings or lose out on valuable work time.

And ride-hailing firms have already begun picking up the slack: Demand for pooling services in the region has reportedly surged during SafeTrack.

“During a time when [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] is getting its house in order, federal commuters have been frustrated at their lack of timely options for getting in to work,” Meadows said.

“My hope is that this bill will allow federal workers to expand their commuting options and not require them to depend on a sole, unreliable form of transportation during WMATA’s time period of construction.”