Frequently Asked Questions
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requires all Transit Benefit Program participants to recertify annually to verify their information is correct and up-to-date.
You are eligible to receive dollar-for-dollar of your actual commuting expense up to the statutory limit. The amount currently permitted by the Internal Revenue Service is $255 per month.
These transit authority websites will assist you to accurately estimate the cost of your commute.
To apply for the Transit Benefit you must use the process approved by the federal agency for whom you work. Contact your Human Resources Representative or the Point of Contact for your agency’s Transit Benefit program. The application and contact at your agency may be listed on this website in the Participants section. For instance, if you are a Department of Transportation employee, click Participants. Then scroll down and click DOT and Transit Benefit Program Application System.
Any time the amount of your Transit Benefit exceeds the amount you need, you must adjust. When your routine commute changes, you are expected to submit a change application to update your Transit Benefit Application Worksheet. When a change is temporary, simply reduce the amount you accept. by purchasing only what you expect to need for that month. (i.e. On leave for one week? Purchase tickets for 3 weeks). You may make additional purchases if your plans change within the monthly cycle. Since most transit benefit participants are already using electronic fare media the balance will automatically sweep back to your Agency at the end of the monthly cycle.
Remember, when using the Transit Benefit to pay your home-to-work-to-home commuting costs, you must adjust the amount of your Transit Benefit to reflect any times when you do not commute. You are not to authorized to claim a Transit Benefit on days on which you telework, take annual or sick leave, are off for a holiday, during an office closure, are on official travel or your area experiences a Code Red day.
No The Transit Benefit Application Worksheet, sometimes refered to as the Commuting Cost Worksheet, is only required during initial application, annual recertification and whenever changes are made to your application.
No. You may apply for a Transit Benefit that equals, but never exceeds the amount you spend when using mass transit for your home-to-work-to-home commute.
Use your current Agency designated process for completing changes to your transit benefit record. If you are not sure what to do, review the Applicant Guide or contact your Agency's Transit Benefit Program Office.
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Any transportation costs that exceed the amount of a participant's transit benefit must be paid for with their personal funds.
Eligible employees may receive a transit benefit from their employers. The amount of the benefit is limited to their actual commuting costs, up to the current statutory limit, which is currently $255 per month. When your costs exceed $255 per month you are required to cover the additional costs with personal funds.
Once paper fare media is distributed to you, you are responsible for its safekeeping. Lost or stolen fare media will not be replaced by your employer. Some transit authorities have methods to exchange damaged fare media. Your agency Point of Contact may also be able to advise you in the handling of damaged fare media. For more information from your transit authority, click here.
Withdraw from the Transit Benefit Program using your Agency's established process. If you are unsure of this process consult your Agency’s policy or consult your Transit Benefit Program Point of Contact.
Participants already using the TRANServe Electronic Application System may go to https://transitapp.ost.dot.gov then click “Transit Benefit Application”, then Click “Withdraw” and click “Proceed”
The TRANServe Card automatically returns unused funds to your Agency.
When using any smart card, ( i.e. ORCA, CHARM, SMARTBENEFITS) it is best, when you know you will be leaving your Agency soon, to simply reduce the amount you accept. You can always download again if you need a bit more toward the end of the month. In many commuting regions, once electronic fare media is loaded to a smart card, it cannot be returned to your Agency automatically.
Return unused paper fare media to your agency Transit Benefit program office. Your record will be credited. The agency may require you to write a check or return the paper fare media for which you are no longer eligible.
When the air quality index is likely to contain unhealthy levels of ozone it may be declared a CODE RED day. When this happens a ride on your local bus may be free. Local governments subsidize this free ride program to encourage people to leave their cars at home and cut down on pollution. Look for a sign on the bus that says "Code Red Day, Ride Free" (or something similar) and has the fare box covered. Any time the amount of Transit Benefit you receive exceeds the amount you need, you must adjust. When you pick up the Transit Benefit the following month, you must adjust your amount by the number of days that were designated Code Red” Example: You have certified your estimated commuting cost is $5.00 per day, or $100.00 per month. There were three “Code Red” days and you were able to ride the bus free. The next time you receive a Transit Benefit, you must request $85.00, having reduced by the amount of Transit Benefit left over from last time.
Note 1: When your actual commuting expense still exceeds the statutory limit you are not required to reduce to account for days on which you did not pay to commute.
Note 2: Users of certain electronic fare media, including the TRAN Serve Debit Card and the WMATA SmarTrip ® card are not required to return unused funds. Unused funds are automatically returned to you Agency at the end of each monthly funding cycle.
Always update your Transit Benefit application to document a permanent change to your commuting costs. To make these changes follow the procedure set by your agency. If your Agency is already using the TRANServe Electronic Transit Benefit System click here.
Whenever the amount of Transit Benefit you receive exceeds the amount you need you must adjust your benefit.
When you use certain electronic fare media, including the TRANServe Card and the WMATA SmarTrip ® card, you are not required to return unused funds. Unused funds are automatically returned to your Agency at the end of each monthly funding cycle. If this does not occur in your region your Agency may require you to produce a check or money order to return the funds to their program.
Example #1: You do adjust your benefit amount if you have certified that your estimated commuting cost is $4.00 per day, or $80.00 per month. On two days during the month you decide to drive rather than use mass transportation, reducing your monthly commuting cost by $8.00. If your Region still uses paper fare media you must reduce the amount you accept when it is time for the next Transit Benefit Distribution to $72.00, to account for the amount of media left from last time.
Example #2: You do not have to adjust your benefit amount if you have certified your estimated commuting cost is $14.00 per day, or $280.00 per month. You received a Transit Benefit of $255.00 for the month and on two days during the month you drove to work, reducing your mass transit expenses by $28. At the next Transit Benefit distribution you do not need to reduce your Transit Benefit as your actual commuting cost still exceeded the amount of Transit Benefit you received.
No. The Federal Transit Benefit is for federal employees who choose to commute using mass transit in a commuter highway vehicle. This includes bus, rail, light rail, or an authorized vanpool.
No. Travel to an off-site meeting or training class is an office expense. The Transit Benefit is provided solely for your home-to-work-to-home commute via mass transportation. Any other use of these funds is actionable as fraud, waste or abuse of federal funds.
Yes. You do if your commuting costs changed when your work schedule changed. You must document this change by updating your Transit Benefit Application. To do this, follow your agency’s prescribed procedure.. If your Agency uses the TRANServe Electronic Transit Benefit System click here.
If you are absent from work and your actual commuting cost falls below the amount of the Transit Benefit you received, you are required to adjust. This means you must reduce the amount of the Transit Benefit you accept during the next distribution cycle. The amount you reduce depends on your actual commuting expense on the days that you actually commuted to your office. Example: You have certified that your estimated commuting cost is $5.00 per day, or $100.00 per month. You are on leave for 10 days. During the next Transit Benefit distribution cycle, you must request $50.00, to account for the amount of fare media left from last time.
Note: Users of certain electronic fare media, including the TRANServe Debit Card and the WMATA SmarTrip ® card are not required to return unused funds. Unused funds are automatically returned to you Agency at the end of each monthly funding cycle. If this does not occur in your region your Agency may require you to produce a check or money order to return the funds to their program.
No! Your Transit Benefit belongs to you and to no one else.
It is against the law to sell or give your fare media to someone else. The federal Transit Benefit was designed to assist employees with public transportation costs and support initiatives that cut-down on air pollution and relieve traffic congestion. The Transit Benefit is not transferable. It is not to be loaned, given away or sold. When you retire, leave the agency, or otherwise separate, you must return all unused fare media to your employing agency. This includes accepting employment with another federal agency. Each employer funds their own program. You must withdraw from the first agency and apply with the new agency.
You must adjust your benefit the following month. When employees enroll in the Transit Benefit Program, they must certify that the benefit amount requested does not exceed their actual monthly commuting costs. To do otherwise constitutes a false statement. The statement on the agency enrollment form reads, “This certification concerns a matter with the jurisdiction of an agency of the United States. Making a false, fictitious, or fraudulent certification may render the maker subject to criminal prosecution under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, providing for a fine and imprisonment. Agency disciplinary actions up to and including dismissal may also be pursued.”