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Conservation Tip of the Week: Commuting Conservation

Last week, I received a good suggestion from David Masaki, who requested an article on public transportation options and ride-sharing opportunities. With gas prices continuing to rise, at a seemingly exponential rate, this topic is near and dear to all of our hearts and our wallets.

First off, there is a surplus of information available on alternate transportation if you just go to the SLAC benefits webpage. Once there, you’ll find everything from Cal-train schedules to Muni schedules to free tickets being offered by many of the various public transportation agencies.

Also, please note that pre-tax commuter options are available, in various forms, and paid for through the Stanford payroll deduction program. You can realize actual savings on your commuting costs of up to 40% or $1,500 annually. It's definitely worth a look if you're contemplating moving toward public transportation on a regular basis. You can contact our Benefits Office for more information.

Many of us would like to use public transportation but are confronted with obstacles that make it impossible to use, myself included. Ride-sharing may present the answer in those instances. Ride-sharing helps reduce our dependency on petroleum through conservation. But aside from that evident outcome, you can reduce your own personal financial expense by spreading gas cost across a number of individuals, reduce the overall wear-and-tear on your own vehicle by sharing the driving time, and as an added benefit you can create a source of companionship for the hours of the day you spend commuting. Some well known ride-share web sites include Stanford Transportation, E Ride Share, and Rideshare.511. I know this seems apparent, but if more people would use this option, then the traffic congestion would be reduced minimizing everyone’s overall commute drive time and improving our overall air quality.

Another option you might consider is purchasing commuter checks for vanpooling or other transit options like parking fees. With commuter checks you receive the benefit of a reduced commuting expense through pre-tax coupons that are good for many of the area's vanpools. The amount of pre-tax dollars that you spend on vanpooling can be up to $115 a month, or up to $220 a month for parking. Your annual taxable income is then reduced by the value of vouchers you purchase. The maximum annual allowable tax savings is $500 for transit and $1000 for parking, but could be less depending on your tax bracket. If you've been considering a vanpool, check with the administrators to ensure they accept commuter checks in payment. More information on commuter checks can be found at the Accor Services website.

John Steward, SLAC Today, June 25, 2008