Bay Area Commuter Benefits
The CBP applies to any public, private, or non-profit employer which has an average of 50 or more full-time employees per week within the geographic boundaries of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (the “District”). Full-time employees are those “who performed an average of at least 20 hours of work per week within the previous calendar month within the geographic boundaries of the District, excluding a seasonal/temporary employee.” For employers with more than one worksite, the threshold is based on the total number of employees at all of the employer’s worksites within the District combined, regardless of how many employees work at each location. The District covers nine counties, including all of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties, the western portion of Solano County and the southern portion of Sonoma County.
Employers who reach the coverage threshold at any time after the CBP goes into effect are required to register online with the BAAQMD’s Air Pollution Control Officer (APCO) or that Officer’s designee, within six months. Employers in local jurisdictions that already require commuter benefits programs, including Berkeley, Richmond and San Francisco, must still register for the CPB and indicate which commuter option(s) they currently provide.
What Benefits Must Covered Employers Provide?
The CPB does not require any employee to change his or her commute method. However, covered employers must offer at least one of the following commuter benefits:
- Pre-tax option: Allow employees to elect to exclude costs for transit passes or vanpool charges used for commuting from their taxable wages.
- Employer-paid benefit: Offer employees a subsidy equal to the monthly cost of commuting via public transit or vanpool, or $75, whichever is lower. Employers may also choose to provide a subsidy for bicycle commuting costs.
- Employer-provided transit: A vanpool, bus or similar multi-passenger vehicle operated by or for the employer.
- Alternative commuter benefit: A pre-approved alternative employer-provided commuter benefit that is as effective in reducing single occupant vehicles as Options 1-3.
Using methods that will reach employees in a particular workplace, such as email, paper memos, in-house newsletters or bulletins, and/or conventional or electronic bulletin boards, covered employers must:
- Notify all covered employees that the employer is subject to the CBP;
- Tell employees which of the commuter benefit options the employer will offer;
- Provide information as to how a covered employee may apply for and receive the commuter benefit;
- Provide a contact person within the organization for further information about the commuter benefit; and
- Provide commuter benefits information as part of the employee benefits package explained to all newly hired employees.