Mass Transit

Federal Participation in Transit Benefit Programs Gao ID: RCED-93-163 September 1, 1993

To bolster air quality and reduce traffic congestion, federal transportation policy has tried to reduce automobile use. One approach has involved employer-provided financial incentives to encourage employees' use of public transportation. The related report, GAO/GGD-93-163, reviews participation by federal agencies and their employees in transit benefit programs. GAO evaluates (1) the extent of transit benefit program participation and the factors influencing it; (2) the effect of federal participation on employees' commuting patterns; (3) funding of federal participation in transit benefit programs; and (4) administration and management of federal participation, including management control over such assets as transit tickets and vouchers. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: Mass Transit: Federal Participation in Transit Benefit Programs, by Kenneth M. Mead, Director of Transportation Issues, before the Subcommittee on Compensation and Employee Benefits, House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service. GAO/T-RCED-93-72, Sept. 23, 1993 (17 pages).

GAO found that: (1) as of 1993, 75 executive, legislative, judicial, and independent federal agencies and organizations have participated in mass transit benefit programs located in the 25 largest metropolitan areas; (2) although most participating agencies provide a $21-per-month employee benefit, the Department of Transportation and three smaller agencies provide a $60-per-month benefit; (3) employee and agency program participation rates are affected by the program's overall cost and accessibility to public transportation; (4) 21 percent of the 18,500 eligible employees who are receiving public transit benefits have changed their primary means to work from drive-alone, carpool, and other means to public transportation because of transit benefit availability; (5) 75 percent of program participants already use public transportation as their primary commuting source; (6) if employee transit benefits are increased to $60 per month, employee participation rates could increase up to 49 percent; (7) participating federal agencies are expected to spend between $8 million and $10 million on transit benefits in fiscal year 1993; (8) budget reductions could affect the continuation of existing programs, even at the $21-per-month benefit level; (9) Congress needs to examine the various funding options available to reauthorize transit programs including funding the program through existing resources or direct congressional appropriations; and (10) federal agencies need to strengthen transit program management and administrative controls and eligibility criteria.


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