San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently signed an ordinance that will require employers to offer workers at least one of three commuter-benefit options:
- A pretax election to offset commuting costs
- An employer-paid benefit
- Employer-provided transit
Ordinance No. 199-08 is intended to help reduce the city's 2012 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% from 1990 levels. The ordinance is believed to be the first of its kind for a U.S. municipality.
Under the first option, employers must set up a program through which employees can make pretax contributions up to the federal legal limit of $115 per month to pay for mass transit expenses. The second option lets employers directly pay for employees' transportation expenses, such as buying them transit passes. Under the third option, employers would furnish transportation by setting up van pools for employees.
City officials expect most employers will choose the pretax election.
The ordinance, which takes effect in late December, gives covered employers 120 days to implement a program. Covered employers include those with at least 20 employees. Covered employees are those who work an average of at least 10 hours per week.