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DC’s Metro Rate Hike, My Commute, and Pre-Tax MetroChecks

Well the hike is official–as of Sunday, a bunch of DC Metro rates have gone up. Interestingly, one that hasn’t been affected is the bus rate if you’re using a SmarTrip card. Otherwise it’s up by 10 cents to $1.35 (or to $0.45 with a transfer). I guess this will affect travelers more than it will DC natives.

My job offers pre-tax deductions from my paycheck (kinda like the 401(k), which I’m not eligible for) in MetroChecks which can be used to fund my SmarTrip for my metro commute. So now I need to figure out how much to have taken out every month to cover my traveling expenses.

Weekdays, I get to ride the hospital’s shuttle bus from the metro to work and Micah drops me at our metro. I can use the shuttle back to the metro and Micah may pick me up (or I bus home) from our station.

I’m at the hospital 2 weekdays a week on average (weekends I drive…the waits are so long and I have to go straight to the library by 10am), but sometimes I pick up an extra shift.

My fare there is $1.95 because it’s rush hour, but coming back it’s only $1.35. So that’s $3.30 each day I use the metro. For my 8 or so scheduled work weekdays per month, that’s $26.40. Let’s assume I pick up two extra shifts each month. $33 even.

Now sometimes I take the bus home from the metro, which is still $0.35 with SmarTrip. So maybe 4 a month coming to $1.40. (Total so far is $34.40.)

Add in a 4 bus trips to or from the library (it’s close so most would be driving but it depends on our schedule). That comes to $39.40 per month.

I’m going to see if I can go with $25 per paycheck for $50 a month, since I occasionally take the metro other places. (I really don’t go out much.)

Now for the advantage of having it pre-tax. Let’s assume a really simple 25% of the paycheck going to tax. So if I have a $100 paycheck (again, simple), I’ll pay $25. But with this, the $25 comes out for metro then I end up paying $18.75 taxes on that $100. At least that’s how I understand it.

Either way, I’ve figured out my approximate metro needs under the new system. Yay! And with SmarTrip I can avoid bus hikes. Double yay.


SavingDiva January 8, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Wow! You really have a plan!

Lily January 8, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Join the pre-tax commuter benefit club! My boyfriend and I commute to Manhattan from Brooklyn. We take the express bus, which is nicer than local buses. Express bus passes are $41 per week per person. Our commuter benefit is capped at $110 per month, so we put $123 on our cards ($110 is pre-tax and reduces our taxable income; the other $13 is just moving money around). It doesn’t cover the whole expense, but it sure beats paying taxes on $1,320 of our commuting costs each year.

RacerX January 8, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Good for you! Show a little planning goes a long way towards saving money over the course of a year.

Christine January 8, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Huh. Your transit is really cheap.

In TO our transit isn’t zoned, so you can go anywhere & almost anywhen for $2.25 (ticket/token) or $2.75 (cash fare). Those are adult fares. There are also student/senior and child fares, but I am not eligible (as only middle- and high-school students are “students” in the commission’s eyes).

I usually buy a metropass through the university at a slightly discounted rate: it’s about $90 or so for a month’s worth of unlimited trips. It truly is unlimited trips; it doesn’t matter how long, short, or frequent your trips are if you’ve got the metropass.

It’s expensive, but I use transit often enough (between work, school, trips to see the BF, and other things) that my metropass usually pays for itself in two or two-and-a-half weeks… and then the rest of the month is essentially free. That’s a nice feeling.

mrsmicah January 8, 2008 at 6:43 pm

One thing I don’t like about DC is that we don’t have any real unlimited passes. There are some, but they don’t cover everything all the time and they’re not monthly.

But SmarTrip lets us put the fares on a special card we just put near the sensor.

ms. m&p January 8, 2008 at 7:31 pm

Wasn’t it a hefty hike this time?! I’m lucky to get metro benefits through work–but I don’t know if those will increase or not so I could be out some money. You have this down to a science, though!

Megan January 8, 2008 at 8:25 pm

I’m also lucky enough to get metro benefits through work – but they changed the system so I’m already getting less than I was last year, and now the fares have gone up, so I’m out a bit of money. But it could be much worse!

CatherineL January 9, 2008 at 6:01 am

You seem to have it all sussed out. Transport can be a huge monthly expense. I’m saving a heap just working from home – about £140 on fuel alone each month.

Mind you, I have not yet worked out the extra heating costs I incur through being at home all the time.

Fabulously Broke January 9, 2008 at 8:37 am

I’m with Christine – $90 a month is cheap for her as she’s a Univ student..

I’m stuck paying $110 a month, PLUS $400 extra if I need to go to the surrounding area outside of my city… *curses*

deepali January 9, 2008 at 10:09 am

Your work doesn’t put anything towards metro fare? You should push for them to do so. We get $110 for it. It pays for my commute to class in Baltimore!

In any case, another thing you can do is go for the full amount pre-tax and try and sell what you don’t use…

Money Blue Book January 9, 2008 at 11:01 am

Egad…I didn’t even notice. I usually just blindly swipe through…going to check later tonight..

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