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January 02, 2009
Commuter Expenses May Mean Higher Wages
That rushing sound you heard the last time you filled your gas tank may have been the collective sigh of relief all around you. With the price per gallon of gasoline hovering around $1.75, people are breathing easier than they were when the price was more than double that amount, just a few months ago. Any pressure you may have felt to help employees struggling with the cost of commuting has likely dissipated.

Cynics might say you’d better hold on, because rumblings among gas-producing nations foretell higher prices ahead. If (when?) we are again faced with $4 per gallon gas, what will you do to ease the burden on your employees? The TransitCenter (www.transitcenter.com), a non-profit dedicated to encouraging the use of mass transit, weighed in on the question when prices were at their peak.

In their 2008 TransitCenter Commuter Impact Survey, they found that many companies were considering increasing worker pay, not only to help employees who were tightly squeezed by the high price of getting to work, but also to keep those employees from jumping ship. Two-thirds of employers responding to the survey said they should be leading the effort to ease the burden of commuting costs on their employees. However, 62% of them were concerned that in order to do so they would need to increase salaries. Nearly half (43%) said they believe that the costs associated with commuting, and employee retention, are linked.

“Employees everywhere are feeling the financial pinch from high fuel prices, prompting corporate America to act,” Larry Filler, president and CEO of TransitCenter said in October 2008. “The good news is that pre-tax commuter benefits can save each employee hundreds of dollars a year, lowering the amount that employers would have to pay to offset higher gas – and transit – prices.”

Over the coming weeks and months, gas prices may stabilize. But just as likely, you and your employees will again be feeling the pinch of soaring prices. A commuter benefit program could make you all feel better.

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