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Will L.A. have the gumption to require businesses to provide transit passes?

December 2, 2008 |  3:32 pm

Between the constant blathering and elephanteering, occasionally something intriguing burps out of the Los Angeles City Council. Take, for example, a motion offered today that potentially could force employers in the city to provide mass transit passes for employees.

The motion by council members Wendy Greuel and Greig Smith asks bureaucrats to explore the idea -- an idea, by the way, that was recently enacted into law in San Francisco.

How does it work? Business owners in San Francisco with more than 20 employees are given three choices: Either allow employees to buy transit passes on a pre-tax basis, provide transportation for them or pay for transportation for them. The latter two choices are costly, so employers go with the pre-tax option.

By most accounts, it's a win for everyone involved. The tax deduction knocks a few bucks off the cost of a monthly transit pass, and more people in Rice-a-Roniville end up with passes. The savings are even larger if your employer picks up half the cost of the transit pass (as does The Times).

It remains to be seen if the City Council will embrace the idea, but it probably helps that the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has shown some interest. The motion is only the start of the process, which could consume days, months, years, decades, epochs -- after all, this is the L.A. City Council we're talking about.

--Steve Hymon

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