Commuter tax credit leads to competition in New Haven

NEW HAVEN - A relatively unknown revised federal law might soon make commuters nationwide rethink their mode of transportation. But that's already happening in New Haven.

Every September, the Elm City rolls out its Car-Free Challenge.

"We have weekly competitions between employees and employers on who can save the most gas and time and money commuting to work," Doug Hausladen, New Haven's director of transportation, traffic and parking.

And, this year, an increased federal commuter transit tax credit has revved up the competition.

"Employers can offer employees up to $255 a month in pretax benefits for mass transit and for van pooling," said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

In other words, don't drive and you can save.

"It helps to promote the mass transit, which is helpful to get cars off of 95, which, as many of us know, is a nightmare to drive on," said Nancy Daly of Madison.

"Employers can reduce their liability on FICA and payroll tax by $255 a month," said Hausladen. "And, employees can use pretax dollars - that same $255."

Another benefit of this new tax credit: a commuter from Clinton, who works in New Haven, says she's met other "train-i-acs."

"If the train is running late, we all text each other and we say what's happening," said Amie Fanning, whose employer, Gateway Community College, is a participant. "It's a family atmosphere on the train. It's great."

Her employer's participation helps her save roughly $25 a month on her train pass. Plus, the Go New Haven Go campaign offers great incentives from local businesses.

"It's just like a rewards program," said Hausladen. "You can also get a 15 percent off at national retailers that make themselves available."

And, if you park at a bus or train station, you can apply up to an additional $255 of tax free money per month to that cost.

Learn more here.