House lawmakers want to let federal employees commute using ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft as alternatives to metro trains during the pandemonium of the transit system’s SafeTrack maintenance surges.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unanimously approved Thursday the Transit Benefits Modernization Act, a bill that would let government personnel use transportation network companies — any entity “that uses a digital network to connect riders to drivers affiliated with the entity in order for a driver to provide transportation services to a rider” — under their agency’s transportation “fringe” benefits while the Washington Area Metro Transit Authority conducts “safety surge” track work.
Other hired services, like taxis and liveries, would be also covered under the bill.
Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., introduced the bill July 6.
Federal employees constitute about 40 percent of WMATA’s peak-hour ridership, according to the legislation. While WMATA has recommended its riders consider alternative means of commuting, government workers are incentivized to continue taking the metro because it falls under their agency benefit plans.
“The Federal Government, which is negatively affected when employees cannot easily commute to and from work, has an interest in assisting employees with alternate commuting options,” the bill reads.
The bill, if enacted, would extend through the end of calendar year 2018 within the Washington, D.C., metro area. WMATA’s SafeTrack surge is scheduled to conclude in March 2017, though “service disruptions will continue to occur following SafeTrack as routine maintenance is needed,” the bill explains.
Federal employee use of ridesharing apps is a growing concern on Capitol Hill. There are similar bills in each house — both named the Modernizing Government Travel Act — that would allow personnel to use the apps for transportation when on official government business. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved its version of the bill Thursday, the same day a group of lawmakers introduced the Senate version.
“Ridesharing and bikesharing platforms provide safe transportation options for consumers, create jobs and reduce traffic,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, said in a statement. “Federal employees deserve reassurance that they can be reimbursed when they use services such as Uber or Lyft for official business… We encourage both the House and Senate to swiftly pass these bills in order to save taxpayers money and give federal employees the transportation choices they deserve — choices already enjoyed by millions of American workers.”