By Kathy Chouteau
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) announced today a new post-pandemic compliance option for the regional Commuter Benefits Program: Telework.
In the wake of state legislation in 2016, the Bay Area adopted a regional commuter benefits program requiring employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer one of four commuter benefits options to its employees, including a pre-tax benefit enabling employees to exclude their transit costs from taxable income, as well as employer-provided transit and transit subsidies.
Employers now have a fifth option to choose from: Telework. The new option can be used to comply with the regional Commuter Benefits Program provided that commuter benefits are not removed from employees unable to work remotely and also that it is offered one or more days per week.
“Now is the time we can make change happen in our offices and on our roadways for the benefit of our environment and health,” said Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County Supervisor and chairperson of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Board of Directors. “As Santa Clara County ends mandated work-from-home orders under a new public health order and other Bay Area counties are soon expected to follow, we have a new telework option allowing employers with 50 or more employees to comply with the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program by allowing employees to work one or more days a week from home if their workload allows it.”
Also today, the Air District unveiled its new “Flex Your Commute” messaging program for Bay Area companies that encourages collaborations between employers and employees to reimagine how the workforce commutes. According to the Air District, studies reveal that employees are more open to making commuting changes when they are encouraged by their employer. Flex Your Commute offers messaging and tools to help motivate employees to choose alternatives to driving alone to work.
“We are now at a tipping point — transportation is the largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in the Bay Area,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air District. “Flexibility — where, when and how we work will help us reduce transportation-related pollution. We must eliminate driving alone to work as a first step at reducing regional air pollution and greenhouse gases.”
Climate change continues to impact air quality in California and the Bay Area, per the Air District. Due to the pandemic, employers and employees learned how to remain productive while working from home, resulting in reducing commuter-related air pollution and congestion.
Carpooling, public transportation, vanpools, bicycling, walking and teleworking are flexible choices Bay Area employees have when planning daily commutes, added the Air District. Both the new Commuter Benefits Program Option 5: Telework and the Flex Your Commute program will encourage sustainable commuting options as the Bay Area continues its recovery from the pandemic and returns to the workplace.
“As more and more people return to the workplace, let’s make smart choices about how we do it. Every one of us can do our part to reduce traffic, improve air quality and protect our climate by not driving alone,” said Alfredo Pedroza, MTC chair and Napa County supervisor. “Whether it’s carpooling, riding transit, biking or keeping those newly acquired telecommuting skills sharp, let’s use our brain power and flex our commutes.”