There’s some changes coming to SmartBenefits in the new year, and you might want know about them now for your long term planning health.
Metro tells us that starting January 1, 2011, there will be two changes to some benefit programs mandated by the government. The first change is a limit on how much money a person can get for transit. The new limit is $120, a full $110 less than it is this year.
The agency says that of about 285,000 people that receive a transit benefit, about 90,000 will be affected by this. This change comes about as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expires at the end of the year.
‘Metro parking lot sunset’
courtesy of ‘BrianMKA’
At the same time, the IRS is changing regulations on parking and transit benefits. The new regulations mean that you cannot use parking and transit benefits interchangeably.
Metro says it will separate out the two accounts and prevent people from using one for the other. It says this change will be phased in over several months, but is unclear on how: will people who receive both benefits require two SmarTrip cards, or will the system know to use the appropriate account when exiting a parking lot versus entering a station?
On a brighter note, Metro also announced a new website that it will use to share the agency’s vision for the future of public transportation in the DC area. The new site, PlanItMetro.com, discusses the Regional Transit Systems Plan for the next 30 years.
It’s a nice start to what I hope will be a more open and public process of sharing information and collecting comments and thoughts. Currently, the site has information on the Technical Advisory Group, a nifty simulation of backups at Union Station, and a draft of a “high frequency” bus corridor map.
Kudos to Metro on that front, and here’s hoping openness spreads to the rest of the operation.
On a slightly perplexing front, Metro also announced that it is testing “turn warning device on Metrobuses” to “help reduce the potential for pedestrian accidents.”
While I appreciate the fact that having a Metrobus yell “pedestrians, bus is turning,” at pedestrians, is likely to scare pedestrians into getting out of the way, I think this is boneheaded and wrong. Metro should concentrate on making sure they have hired good drivers who are then trained and retrained to be as safe as possible.
If a pedestrian has to scurry out of the way, that bus driver is almost certainly at fault. Adding this will just give Metro and it’s red-light running brigade a little more cover to say, “we warned them we were turning!”
Here’s hoping you all have a great, and safe Thanksgiving and associated travels.