July 21--A bill sent to the governor's desk could put California employers on the hook for subsidizing workers' commutes if they travel by public transit, carpools or other low-polluting ways.
The legislation would allow regional transportation and air pollution boards in the Bay Area and 17 other metropolitan areas to pass employee benefit ordinances that could affect companies with as few as 20 workers.
In areas with the ordinances, employers would be required to offer workers at least one type of commute subsidy. One option would be to designate some worker pay to be made in pretax dollars. Other options include offering workers a transit or vanpool subsidy of $75 a month, or running a free company shuttle or vanpool.
"Employees are more likely to consider commute options like transit, ridesharing or bicycling when actively encouraged by their employers," said Jack Broadbent, executive director of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which supported the bill.
If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill, the air district and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission would have power to adopt an ordinance for the Bay Area.
The bill says the regional agencies can set the threshold for the ordinances at companies that employ between 20 and 50 workers. The legislation did not include an estimated cost to employers.
Senate Bill 582 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was approved last week by the state Senate and Assembly.
bill was supported by MTC, BART, AC Transit, and the California League of Conservation Voters. The California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill.
The bill doesn't require employers to achieve any specific pollution reduction targets by offering the commute subsidies, air quality officials said.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff. Read the Capricious Commuter at www.ibabuzz.com/transportation.
Copyright 2011 - Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.