Federal workers in mega-prosperous Washington, D.C., could soon be commuting for free, and American taxpayers are on the hook.
The $1.1 trillion spending bill Congress will take up this week fully covers peak-hour Metro fares for federal workers in the D.C. area, doubling their current tax-paid transportation benefits.
The catch-all spending bill increases federal employee Metro benefits from up to $130 a month to as much as $255 a month. The hike more than covers maximum fares of $5.90 from any point on the system to any other point on the system during rush hour, both ways, over a 21-workday month.
Some argue the federal transit subsidy only perpetuates Metro’s history of poor service and safety, because many riders don’t have to sacrifice their own budgets to pay for the service. More than one in three Metro riders works for the federal government, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
The transit benefit increase is good news for the WMATA, which has seen Metro ridership decrease since 2010 as the system’s reliability and safety record have worsened. Things are so bad that a group of Metro riders recently created their own union.
The benefit can’t exceed riders’ actual commuter fares.
Free commutes aren’t the only enticing benefit for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill. The spending bill also includes a 1.3 percent raise for all federal employees in 2016.
Federal employees nationwide enjoy extremely generous compensation and benefits, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They’re paid on average two percent more in salary and 48 percent more on benefits than private sector workers.
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