Mass Transit:

Federal Participation in Transit Benefit Programs

RCED-93-163: Published: Sep 1, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 1, 1993.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed federal participation in state and local transportation benefit programs, focusing on the: (1) extent of participation; (2) cost and funding mechanisms; and (3) effect of federal participation on commuting behavior.

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.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In reauthorizing the transit benefit program (P.L. 103-172), Congress directed the President to designate an agency to be the central coordinating authority.

    Matter: If Congress chooses to reauthorize federal participation in transit benefit programs, it should consider establishing a central coordinating authority to serve as a clearinghouse for federal agencies and organizations establishing or participating in transit benefit programs to obtain guidance, information, and clarification on participation requirements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT has the largest number of employees participating in an employer-provided transit benefit program. Five federal agencies, representing 55 percent of the employees participating in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, informed OMB and the appropriate congressional committees that they would implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve management and administration of agency programs, the heads of the federal agencies participating in transit benefit programs should review the implementation of management control procedures at offices providing transit benefits to employees on a periodic basis to ensure that participation is limited only to eligible employees, and that assets are properly accounted for and safeguarded.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT has the largest number of employees participating in an employer-provided transit benefit program. Five federal agencies, representing 55 percent of the employees participating in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, informed OMB and the appropriate congressional committees that they would implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve management and administration of agency programs, the heads of the federal agencies participating in transit benefit programs should develop plans to measure and evaluate the effect of agencies' transit benefit programs on employees' commuting behavior, including increased transit use and changes in vehicle occupancy, and provide this information to the appropriate state and metropolitan planning organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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