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Chris Tomlinson Talks about The ATL on NPR

SRTA on NPR

Chris Tomlinson Talks about The ATL on NPR

Chris Tomlinson had a chance to discuss regional transit funding and the governance bill (House Bill 930), which creates a new regional transit authority known as The ATL, on the WABE program, A Closer Look with Rose Scott. Joining Chris was Doug Hooker, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission. The program aired on April 26. To view behind the scenes video captured of the interview, watch below.

Guaranteed Ride Home

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from people considering riding Xpress is: “What if there’s an emergency and I have to get home quickly — won’t I be stuck in Atlanta?” When something happens — your child is sick, or you are, for example — the last thing you want is to be trapped at work without the flexibility of your own transportation.

The Guaranteed Ride Home service helps give you the freedom of flexibility when life interferes with your standard commute schedule. Xpress customers can receive up to five free rides per year for emergency uses, so that when unscheduled events require you to leave work early or stay at the office late, you’ll still be able to get home or back to your car.

Here’s how you can qualify:
  1. Fill out this form and return it by mail or fax to the Atlanta Regional Commission before you need a ride home.
  2. You’ll receive a confirmation letter from the Atlanta Regional Commission approving your participation in the program.
  3. Ride to work by carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, walking, or biking.
  4. Work in one of the following counties (Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton)
  5. Have an unscheduled event which causes you to need the service. Click here to see what qualifies as an unexpected event.
  6. Call 1-877-433-3463 to schedule your ride.

Ready to sign up? Click here to begin your registration and learn more about the program.

Earn Toll Credits for Taking Xpress!

Every single time you commute on an Xpress coach, you’re doing more than letting someone else do the driving: you’re helping relieve traffic congestion throughout the metro-Atlanta region. That’s a big deal–every year, we save the region more than $125 million in congestion-related costs.

We want to thank our customers for the important role they’re playing in moving Atlanta forward, and we also want to help you get more value from riding Xpress. We teamed up with the State Road and Tollway Authority and Gwinnett County Transit to create a new pilot program for our commuters who ride Xpress and/or GCT and also use I-85 Express Lanes. We hope this program will help reward commuters who take transit more frequently–so that on a day when they do have to drive themselves to work, it’s a little less painful on their time and wallets.

The Ride Transit – Earn Toll Credits Program allows I-85 Express Lane commuters the opportunity to earn toll credits when they take Xpress and GCT express. Program participants can earn a toll credit of $2 per trip, up to $10 per month (a maximum of $60 over the six-month period). This pilot program will be offered for the next six months, and your participation and feedback will help us assess what kind of long-term commute credits program could be most beneficial for our riders.

To participate in the program, you must have a Peach Pass tied to a personal toll account and an Xpress Pass or a MARTA Breeze Card.

Eligible Xpress routes:

  • 410 Sugarloaf Mills to Lindbergh MARTA Station
  • 411 Hamilton Mill/Mall of Georgia to Midtown
  • 412 Sugarloaf Mills to Midtown
  • 413 Hamilton Mill to Downtown Atlanta
  • 416 Dacula to Downtown Atlanta

Eligible Gwinnett County Transit routes:

  • GCT 101 I-985/SR 20 Park and Ride to Downtown Atlanta
  • GCT 102 I-85 Indian Trial Park and Ride to Downtown Atlanta
  • GCT 103 I-85/Sugarloaf Mills Park and Ride to downtown Atlanta (Zone 2)

To learn more about the how you can participate in the Ride Transit – Earn Toll Credits Program visit: http://www.peachpass.com/transit-toll-credits

Interested in saving 30% or more on your Xpress pass?

Did you know that many Xpress riders are receiving discounts of 30% or more on their Xpress passes? If you use Xpress to get to work, you can too! Just like other fringe benefits facilitated by your employer, your transit passes are eligible to be purchased using pre-tax dollars.

Many of us are familiar with having fringe benefits like a Health Savings Account or group life insurance deducted from our paychecks every month. For 2015, the IRS has announced that up to $130 of your monthly transit passes can now be deducted in the same way.

 

So how does it work?

In most cases, your employer administratively sets up the deduction just as they would any other fringe benefit. Then, each month the cost of your transit pass (up to $130) would be deducted from your gross pay before taxes are taken out. Since your employer is withholding the cost of your transit pass from your take-home pay, your employer is responsible for purchasing your pass for you.

Your employer could purchase your pass in a couple of ways.

  1. Purchase directly from the transit provider. Xpress passes are available for sale in our online store. Marta, CCT and GCT passes would have to be purchased though their respective agencies.
  2. Purchase all passes through your local Transportation Management Association (TMA). Many of metro-Atlanta’s TMAs offer one-stop transit pass shopping for companies located in within their geographic boundaries. Find your TMA here.

 

How much could you save?

How much you save depends on a couple of variables; the first of which is how much you spend a month on transit passes. Here are the fares for all Xpress routes:

Xpress fare chart

The second variable is your income tax rate which varies by your income (if you aren’t sure, 25% may be a good estimate). If you’d like to check your rate, Bankrate.com provides an easy chart or the official IRS charts can be viewed here.

In addition to your income tax, you’ll also save on FICA payroll taxes. FICA payroll taxes are 7.65% of your taxable income.

Here is the formula to calculate your potential savings:

Cost of Pass * (Income Tax Rate + .0765) = Monthly Savings

For example, if you were to purchase a 31-Day Blue Zone Xpress pass valued at $125 and you had an income tax rate of 25% and 7.65% in FICA payroll taxes, your monthly savings would be $40.81!

$125 * (.25+.0765) = $40.81

 

Not sure if your employer will set up this benefit for you?

Remind them that it helps their bottom line too! Since your transit passes are coming out of your gross income and aren’t taxable, your employer doesn’t pay payroll taxes on your deduction. If they need more information, send them to the Employers section of the Xpress blog, and let them know they can always contact us directly for additional help.

Want to learn more? Consult with your accountant and check out these official sources:

 

Fares available on Breeze

We’re expanding our partnership with MARTA Breeze to provide our riders with additional benefits and fare options.

Beginning Monday, March 16, all Xpress fare products will be available on MARTA Breeze Cards. In addition to using stored cash value on your Breeze Card to pay for Xpress fares, you’ll be able to load Xpress round-trip, 10-ride, and monthly passes onto your Breeze Card.

For Breeze Card users, this means…

  • More secure passes. Ever misplace a paper pass, or had one stolen or damaged? It’s an expensive loss. Now, all the safety features of Breeze Cards include Breeze-loaded Xpress passes. Read about them here.
  • Fewer round-trip hassles. You no longer need to ask your driver for a round-trip pass when you board the bus—pre-load it on your Breeze Card and say goodbye to keeping track of paper passes.
  • Extra savings: free transfers and discounted multi-ride passes. Before, you could only get a free transfer between Xpress and MARTA if you used your Breeze Card to board both services (read more details about transfers here)… and you could only use your Breeze Card’s stored cash value to pay your Xpress fare. This meant that riders couldn’t enjoy the savings offered by multi-ride Xpress passes and free MARTA transfers at the same time. Breeze-loaded multi-ride Xpress passes now make that possible.

 

Breeze-loaded Xpress round-trip, 10-ride, and monthly passes will be available for purchase online at the Breeze website. In the future, we intend to offer Xpress passes on Breeze vending machines, but for now, they are offered exclusively through the Breeze website. Passes purchased online will be loaded onto your Breeze Card and available for use within 48 hours.

Not interested in using the Breeze Card? All our passes, fares, and policies remain the same. You can still purchase paper Xpress passes online and in-person at the pass sales window, and you can always pay a one-way or round-trip fare using cash on the coach. Read more about our fares here.


All Xpress fares and policies remain the same, no matter where you purchase your passes. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Paper Xpress passes are still available for purchase on the Xpress pass sales website and in person (find out more here), and cash fares will still be accepted on Xpress coaches. Stored cash value and automatic transfers will continue to work on Breeze Cards. 
  • Xpress pass sales are final, including passes loaded onto Breeze Cards.
  • If you load a 10-ride or monthly pass onto your Breeze Card and use it to take a trip on Xpress, a free transfer to MARTA (eligible for three hours) will automatically be loaded on your Breeze Card.
  • Xpress passes, including passes loaded on a Breeze Card, are not valid on other service providers. These include routes operated by MARTA, CCT, or GCT. Before making a purchase, please ensure you are purchasing the correct pass for your commute: if you ride a CCT or GCT operated route (see the list here), you must purchase CCT and GCT passes, which are also available on your Breeze Card. More information about Xpress, CCT, and GCT fares is available here.

*Please note that you cannot use Xpress passes to board MARTA. This is especially important when planning trips that include a transfer between MARTA and Xpress: no trip originating with MARTA can be paid for with Xpress passes. Instead, you must use Breeze-loaded MARTA passes or stored cash value to begin your journey. The free transfer from MARTA to Xpress will be automatically added to your Breeze Card. If you board Xpress within three hours of using your Breeze Card on MARTA, you’ll automatically ride free with your Breeze transfer—no Xpress passes will be deducted from your Breeze Card balance.

  • We recommend maintaining some stored cash value on your Breeze Card, especially if you use Xpress routes in both Green and Blue fare zones. For instance, if you have a lower-priced Green zone fare pass loaded onto your Breeze card and attempt to board a route in the higher-priced Blue fare zone, the difference in cost between the fare zones will automatically be deducted from your Breeze Card–provided you have sufficient stored cash value to cover the difference in price. If you do not have enough stored cash value to cover the difference in fare cost, no transaction will be rendered on your Breeze Card and you will not be allowed to board the bus. You do, however, always have the option of paying the full fare price in cash when you board the coach.

 

We’re excited about the opportunity to expand your options for buying and storing your Xpress passes, and we appreciate your patience as we begin this new collaboration–behind the scenes, updated technology (on the coaches, our pass sales system, and eventually, Breeze vending machines) means that we’re bound to encounter a few glitches. If you have questions about Breeze Card policies, fare purchases on your Breeze Card, or using your Breeze Card, Breeze Card Customer Service is ready to help. They can be reached at 404-848-5000, or visit the FAQs on the Breeze website.

Thank you, Route 421

Every year, we ask the Xpress community to donate to the Can-A-Thon. Every year, we’re amazed at the generosity of our riders, drivers, and staff–and this year was no exception. Route 421 blew us away with their donation of 301 cans, a contribution that helped Xpress donate more than 2,200 cans of food to help relieve hunger in our communities.

How many cans did your route contribute? Check it out here.

Today, we headed out to the West Conyers Park-and-Ride to show our appreciation in person.

We can’t wait to open our hearts even more in December 2015. In the meantime, we’re taking time this Valentine’s to reflect on the love and generosity we share in our community, and what prompts the selfless giving we see each winter.

What inspires you to give?