QUESTIONS

  1. What is the Transportation Subsidy Program?
  2. How does the Transportation Subsidy Program work?
  3. Who is eligible for this program?
  4. How do I sign up for the Transportation Subsidy Program?
  5. Can I receive federally subsidized parking and also participate in the Transit Subsidy Program?
  6. What are qualifying transportation expenses?
  7. Are parking expenses considered a qualifying transportation expense in the Transportation Subsidy Program?
  8. Can I participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program if I carpool to work?
  9. Can I participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program if I use qualifying public transportation less than 5 days per week?
  10. Are vanpool riders eligible to participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program?
  11. Is the vanpool owner/operator eligible to participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program?
  12. Is the value of the Transportation Subsidy Program taxable?
  13. What is the standard number of days per month for calculating my monthly commuting expenses?
  14. How do I account for my transit benefits when I have been on leave, flexible work schedule, telework, official travel, training, or did not commute using qualified modes of transportation all the days that I indicated on my Transportation Subsidy Application?
  15. If I am a new employee, should I wait for the start of a new distribution period before signing up?
  16. Is the DOI SF-1164 (Claim for Reimbursement) an acceptable means of compensation for commuting expenses, which qualify under the Transportation Subsidy Program?
  17. How and when are transit passes distributed?
  18. Am I allowed temporary parking while enrolled in Transportation Subsidy Program?
  19. May I have intermittent motorcycle and/or bicycle parking while enrolled in the Transporation Subsidy Program?
  20. When I leave the Department or exit clear from my bureau/office, what do I do with my unused transit passes?I
  21. * What are the requirements for participating in the SmartBenefits SmartTrip Card Program?
  22. * Is it important to register your SmartTrip card?
  23. * Does DOT need my authorization to verify my information in the SmartBenefits Program?
  24. * When participating in the SmartBenefits Program how often can i get my Transportation Subsidy Benefit and where can i pick it up?
  25. * If I lost my SmartTrip card or if it is stolen, what happens?
  26. * Can my SmartBenefits be used for parking?
  27. * If I am a senior citizen or disabled Metro rider, do I need to do anything differently to join SmartBenefits?
  28. * Will I receive the discounted fare onto my Senior Citizen or Disabled SmartTrip card for SmartBenefits?
  29. What do I need to do if my address, commuting costs or work schedule changes?
  30. Am I allowed to use (spend) my transit benefits in excess of my qualified monthly commuting costs?
  31. What happens to me if I fail to comply with the separation clearance procedures and/or reimburse the Department for the pro-rated value of my unused or overspent transit benefits when I transfer to a different bureau/office or leave the Department?
  32. Can Transit Subsidy participants use their subsidy allocation for more than one mode of qualified transportation during their commute?

* Applies only to the WMA

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1. What is the Transportation Subsidy Program?

The Transportation Subsidy Program is a program of financial incentives designed to encourage employees to use mass transit for commuting to and from work.

The Transportation Subsidy Program originated with the Federal Employees Clean Air Incentives Act of 1993, (P.L. 103-72), and was later expanded to include a pre-tax provision, after the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (P.L. 105-178) was passed.

In April, 2000, Executive Order 13150 mandated that all Federal agencies in the National Capital Region (NCR) implement a Transportation Subsidy Program by October 1, 2000. On July 26, 2000, the Department adopted the policy of making the Transportation Subsidy Program available to all qualifying Department of the Interior (DOI) employees nationwide.

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2. How does the Transportation Subsidy Program work?

If you incur qualifying transportation expenses commuting to and from work, you will be eligible to receive a transit pass (media such as TRANServe Debit Card, Metrochek, voucher, SmartTrip®) download in the Washington Metropolitan Area or monthly/annual pass to cover these expenses. The maximum amount is up to $130.00 per month, and the transit passes are purchased by bureaus and offices using their appropriated funds.

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3. Who is eligible for this program?

All DOI employees who incur qualifying transportation expenses and are not receiving federally subsidized workplace parking benefits from DOI or any other federal agency, are eligible to participate in this program (Exception: see Q&A #'s 9, 18, & 19).

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4. How do I sign up for the Transportation Subsidy Program?

You will need to complete the following forms, have your supervisor approve/certify them, and submit to your bureau or office transit coordinator for approval and processing by DOT.

Public Transportation Subsidy Program Application

Commuting Expense Worksheet

Both forms can be found here.

You must also take the online Transit Benefit Integrity Training course and provide the certificate of completion to your office or bureau transit coordinator. This training can be found at: http://www.doi.gov/doilearn/

To access the course:

  1. Log in to DOI LEARN at http://www.doi.gov/doilearn/.
  2. Click on "Course Catalog" > "Catalog" and search for the title of the course.
  3. Click on the course title and apply for the course. Enter zeroes for all associated costs and select Agency as the funding source.
  4. Once successfully enrolled in the course, click on "My Courses" > "Online Courses" and the title of the course to begin.
  5. You will need to successfully pass the post assessment with a score of 70% to receive a completion certificate for the course.

For help with technical difficulties, please contact the DOI LEARN helpdesk at 866-466-1998 or doilearn@geolearning.com.

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5. Can I receive federally subsidized parking and also participate in the Transit Subsidy Program?

No, you cannot receive parking and be enrolled in the Transit Subsidy Program.
(Exceptions: See Q&A's # 9, 18, and 19)

In addition, vanpool riders are eligible providing that:

  • The vanpool vehicle meets the IRS criteria for a Commuter Highway Vehicle (see Q&A #6); and
  • The vanpool is registered with the local transportation authority and accepts transit passes as payment.
  • The vanpool owner/operator is eligible for a federally subsidized parking space, if the space is provided by DOI.

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6. What are qualifying transportation expenses?

Qualifying transportation expenses are defined in the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. Section 132-9), and include:

  • Use of mass transit facilities (subway, rail, bus) or other similar public transportation mode.
  • Use of a Commuter Highway Vehicle (having a seating capacity of at least 6 adults not including the driver), and which is used for transporting employees to and from work for at least 80% of the mileage. Vanpools would typically satisfy the criteria for vehicles of this type – while carpools would not (see Q&A # 8 for additional requirements).

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7. Are parking expenses considered a qualifying transportation expense in the Transportation Subsidy Program?

No. Parking expenses are not covered by the Transportation Subsidy Program and must not be included in your estimated monthly commuting costs.

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8. Can I participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program if I carpool to work?

No. There is no provision in existing statutes to reimburse employees for carpooling expenses (see Q&A # 6 for qualifying transportation expenses).

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9. Can I participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program if I use qualifying public transportation less than 5 days per week?

Yes, providing that you have an established commuting pattern, which may consist of using a vanpool and/or public transportation on a regular basis. Occasional or sporadic use of public transportation does not qualify.

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10. Are vanpool riders eligible to participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program?

Yes, providing that:

  • The vanpool vehicle meets the IRS criteria for a Commuter Highway Vehicle (see Q&A #6); and
  • The vanpool is registered with the local transportation authority and accepts transit passes as payment.

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11. Is the vanpool owner/operator eligible to participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program?

No. However, the vanpool owner/operator is eligible for the federally subsidized parking space, if the space is provided by DOI.

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12. Is the value of the Transportation Subsidy Program taxable?

No.

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13. What is the standard number of days per month for calculating my monthly commuting expenses?

The standard, which is consistent with DOT policy, is 20 days. If your qualifying transportation expenses are less than 20 days, (i.e., excluding Flexible Work Schedule day off and Telecommuting days) then calculate your daily expenses by the actual number of commuting days.

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14. How do I account for my transit benefits when I have been on leave, flexible work schedule, telework, official travel, training, or did not commute using qualified modes of transportation all the days that I indicated on my Transportation Subsidy Application?

Every participant is responsible to make adjustments to their transit benefit to reflect the actualy cost of their home to work commute.  Consequently if your work to commute schedule changes, you must adjust your Public Transportation Subsidy Program Application and Commuting Exepense Worksheet.

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15. If I am a new employee, should I wait for the start of a new distribution period before signing up.

No. You can sign up at any time.  However it may take up to 30-60 days to receive your benefit.  DOT will make every attempt to promptly process requests. 

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16. Is the DOI SF-1164 (Claim for Reimbursement) an acceptable means of compensation for commuting expenses, which qualify under the Transportation Subsidy Program?

No. You may only use the Public Transportation Subsidy Program Application to receive benefits.

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17. How and when are transit passes distributed?

The Department of Transportation has been administered the Transportation Subsidy Program in major metropolitan areas for a number of years.  However on December 31, 2015, all annual pass distributions will cease.  DOT will issue the TRANServe Debit Card to cover (annual pass) participants monthly commuting costs. 

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18. * Am I allowed temporary parking while enrolled in the Transportation Subsidy Program?

You are NOT allowed to have a federally-subsidized parking space while enrolled in the Transportation Subsidy Program.  However you may receive temporary parking for no more than five days in any one month, and no more than 30 days total per fiscal year, and comply with parking policies and procedures.  You MUST ensure that you reduce your next transit benefit amount or reimburse your bureau or office to reflect the days that you received temporary federally-subsidized parking. 

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19. May I have intermitten motorcycle and/or bicycle parking while enrolled in the Transportation Subsidy Program?

Yes, provided you do not exceed five days in any one month and 30 days total per fiscal year, and comply with parking policies and procedures. You MUST ensure that you reduce your next transit benefit amount to reflect the days that you received federally-subsidized Temporary Motorcycle and/or Bicycle parking. If it is necessary to exceed the frequency above, you must either modify your Public Transportation Subsidy Program Application to accurately reflect your monthly commuting costs, or return the pro-rated amount of unused transit passes, or reimburse the Department by personal check or money order made payable to one of the following, as appropriate:

  • The Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary (OS) for OS and Interior Business Center employees.
  • The Department of the Interior, Bureau (i.e. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, etc.) for bureau employees.

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20. When I leave the Department or exit clear from my bureau/office, what do I do with my unused transit passes?

As part of the Exit Clearance Process, you are required to complete and return the unused transit passes to your bureau or office coordinator, or reimburse the Department, as you certified in Section D of the Transportation Subsidy Program Application. Checks or money orders must be made payable to one of the following, as appropriate:

  • The Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary (OS) for OS and Interior Business Center employees.
  • The Department of the Interior, Bureau (i.e. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, etc.) for bureau employees.
  • Additionally, you must complete and submit a de-enrollment form and give it to your Bureau or Office Transit Coordinator.

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21. *What are the requirements for participating in the SmartBenefits SmarTrip Card Program?

All Federal employees who participate in the Transportation Subsidy Program, and use ALL of their benefits on Metrorail, Metrobus, Metro-authorized van pools, Fairfax Connector, Ride On or DASH are required to participate in the SmartBenefits® Program. You must attach a legible enlarged photocopy of the back of your SmarTrip® Card to your application.

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22. *Is it important to register your SmarTrip card?

 

Yes. Without a registered SmarTrip® card, there is no way to apply your benefit to your SmarTrip® account. Participants must provide the serial number of a Metro Registered SmarTrip® Card when applying for SmartBenefits®. If you have not registered your card or are unsure that it is registered, you must do so by calling WMATA at (888) 762-7874, or online at: https://www.smartrip.com/streg/streg.entryfm.

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23. * Does DOT need my authorization to verify my information in the SmartBenefits Program?

All Federal employees who participate in the SmartBenefits® Program must authorize the Department of Transportation (DOT) to verify the accuracy of the name, last four digits of their social security number, and registered card number assigned to their SmarTrip® Card.

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24. * When participating in the SmartBenefits® Program how often can I get my Transportation Subsidy Benefit and where can I pick it up?

SmartBenefits® are provided to recipients on a monthly basis. SmartBenefits® may be picked up at any time during the month by adding the benefit to your SmarTrip® Card at Metro Passes/Fare Cards machines located in Metro Stations. Once downloaded, existing balances will remain on your card and cannot be removed until you use them. However, unclaimed benefits for a given month may not be claimed once the month has passed. SmartBenefits® not claimed between the first and last day of the month are credited back your Bureau/Office.

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25. * If I lose my SmartTrip® card or if it is stolen, what happens?

The SmarTrip® card can be replaced without losing any of the fare value on the card at the time reported missing with a simple phone call to WMATA at (888) 762-7874, by providing the number of the missing card and paying a $5.00 replacement fee using your own personal money. Your transit subsidy CANNOT be used to purchase a replacement SmarTrip® card.

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26.* Can my SmartBenefits be used for parking?

No. You CANNOT use Transit Benefits added to a SmarTrip® card to pay for parking at Metrorail parking lots. A good idea would be to add extra personal money to your SmarTrip® card to cover the parking fees. It is against Transit Program Policy to include any amount you spend on parking, so DO NOT include parking costs in your monthly estimate for transit expenses.

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27. * If I am a senior citizen or disabled Metro rider, do I need to do anything differently to join SmartBenefits®?

Yes. You must purchase a Senior Citizen or Disabled SmarTrip® card with a valid Metro ID before enrolling in the SmartBenefits® Program, and register the card.

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28. * Will I receive the discounted fare onto my Senior Citizen or Disabled SmarTrip® card for SmartBenefits®?

Yes. The Senior Citizen or Disabled SmarTrip® cards are encoded to charge the discounted fare.

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29. What do i need to do if my address, commuting costs or work schedule changes?

If your address, commuting costs or work changes, you MUST complete a revised Public Transportation Subsidy Program Application and Commuting Expense Worksheet. Your supervisor must approve/certify the forms, and submit the completed application and Expense Worksheet to your bureau or office coordinator for approval and processing by DOT. The forms can be found here

Reminder: You must check the “Revised Application” box at the top of the application.

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30.  Am I allowed to use (spend) my transit benefits in excess of my qualified monthly commuting costs? 

No. You may not, in any given month, use more of your transit benefits than the amount of your qualified monthly commuting expenses. You must use your own funds for any transportation costs in excess of that amount rather than using the Government-provided transit benefits intended for use in a future month or the remainder of the current month.

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31.  What happens to me if I fail to comply with the separation clearance procedures and/or reimburse the Department for the pro-rated value of my unused or overspent transit benefits when I transfer to a different bureau/office or leave the Department?

Your exit clearance form will not be signed off by the Transportation Subsidy Program Coordinator. Your paycheck may be held until restitution is made, or your wages may be garnished. Additionally, you may be subject to disciplinary action.

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32.  Can Transit Subsidy participants use their Subsidy allocation for more than one mode of qualified transportation during their commute?  

Yes. Transit Subsidy participants who use more than one mode of transportation during their commute may use multiple qualified transportation vendors with the understanding that the total accumulative cost may not exceed the maximum month statutory limit or the maximum amount the participant is authorized to receive from the program.

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*Applies only to the WMA