We spark innovations and support policies that improve public transportation for riders, businesses and communities. Better urban transit and increased ridership – along with housing affordability, good community design, equitable economic development, and other low-carbon modes of transportation such as walking and biking – are essential ingredients in urban vitality. Improving mobility for all will better the environment and public health through cleaner air and reduced carbon pollution, bolster the economy and increase access to jobs, and contribute to social equity and stronger mixed-use neighborhoods.
We work in two inter-related ways:
Innovation and systemic change are at the root of our organization. In the 1980s our predecessors at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and their partners at the region’s transit agencies conducted a commuter survey which revealed the results of a harmful inconsistency in federal tax policy: if employers subsidized their workers driving to work, and gave away automobile parking without charging for it, they could write those costs off on their taxes.
But employers giving their employees a transit pass got no such write-off. The tax code was distorting the market in a socially harmful way. If someone chose to commute alone by car, the code sent the signal that the government will indirectly subsidize that commute (in addition to subsidies directed for roads). But there were no such subsidies for those who chose to take the bus or train. Our founders worked with leaders like Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bill Bradley to start reducing that unfair disparity in the tax code.
Fixing the public policy forces was just the first step. Our founders took the next step of actualizing the market forces that were unleashed by the changes that Congress enacted. They formed TransitCenter and developed a consumer product called TransitChek that made it convenient for employers and employees to take advantage of the new commuter benefit. The TransitChek product became a profitable business, with demonstrable social benefits. It saved money for employers and individuals and increased the use of transit. The proceeds of the sale of the TransitChek business to a private sector company in 2012 fund our civic activities today, but that legacy is more than financial: the blend of research, advocacy, innovation, and enterprise is what gives TransitCenter its distinctive character.