Beginning September 30, 2014, employers in the San Francisco Bay Area that have a minimum of 50 full-time employees must offer commuter benefits, such as payments for commuter passes, to any employee who works 20 or more hours per week. This program will be effective through 2016.

Following is an overview of the new Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program (CBP).

Requirements: Covered employers must (a) provide commuter benefits; (b) communicate the benefits information to employees; (c) designate a commuter benefits coordinator; and (d) register with the CBP.

Covered employers: The program applies to all public, private and nonprofit entities employing at least 50 full-time employees per week in the San Francisco Bay Area. The covered geographic area includes all of Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, Napa County, San Francisco County, San Mateo County and Santa Clara County, as well as portions of other counties. The total employee count is based on all Bay Area work locations combined.

Benefits choices: The employer must offer one of these benefits:

  • 1) Pre-Tax Option: Exclusion from employees’ taxable wages commuting costs incurred for transit passes or vanpool charges to the level allowed by federal law.
  • 2) Cash Subsidy: Transit subsidy up to $75 per month.
  • 3) Employer Transportation: Free or low-cost van pool, bus or shuttle.
  • 4) Alternative Benefits: Subsidy for carpooling, bicycling, walking or telecommuting.
  • 5) A proposed custom benefit, which is subject to approval by the CBP.

Penalties: Violators are subject to civil penalties up to $10,000 per day.

Be Prepared: San Francisco Bay Area business entities must first determine whether they are subject to the new requirements under the CBP. Companies that meet the criteria will then need to determine which benefit option best suits their workforce and implement the benefit by September 30, 2014, including communicating information to employees, designating a commuter benefits coordinator and registering the program with the CBP.