JHU's Commuter Assistance Program can save you money

Image caption: You can have the same amount deducted every month or make changes each month to reflect your needs.

You might be stuck with your daily commute—traffic jams, train delays, and grouchy co-commuters included—but there's no reason to pay more than you have to. Through JHU's Commuter Assistance Program, administered by WageWorks, you can cut your costs by accessing pretax money to pay for public transportation or parking.

Here's how it works: You sign up and select a WageWorks transit account to cover public transportation, a parking account to cover parking, or both. You can choose to have the same amount deducted every month (up to $255 for mass transit and $255 for parking) or you can make changes each month as your commuting needs change (changes made by the 10th of each month go into effect the following month).

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"A lot of people use the parking benefit, especially people who work in East Baltimore, where there is only non-JHU parking available, or who use Light Rail, trains, Metro, or the bus," says JHU benefits representative Danielle Altmeyer.

Because the money comes out of your pretax pay, WageWorks estimates you'll save an average of 30 percent—potentially hundreds of dollars a year—on commuter expenses.

With a Web portal and a mobile app, WageWorks makes taking advantage of the benefit easy: You can log in and opt to have WageWorks load money directly onto your WMATA SmarTrip card for mass transit or onto a WageWorks Commuter card that you can use to add money to your Baltimore City CharmCard or to buy MTA passes or tickets. You also can be reimbursed for out-of-pocket mass transit expenses.

For non-JHU parking, you can opt to have WageWorks pay the facility directly. (If you're a full-time employee who parks at a JHU facility, don't worry—your parking payment is automatically deducted from your pay with pretax dollars).

Still have questions? Fear not, WageWorks offers detailed information on its website, including answers to frequently asked questions, a list of eligible expenses, and a commuter savings calculator that lets you plug in your expected expenses and your tax rate to get an idea of how much money you'll save through the program.

Who's eligible: Full- or part-time faculty and staff members.

When do I sign up? Anytime.

How do I pay for it? Payroll deduction.

Terms to Know

Charm Card: A rechargeable, reusable smart fare card you can use on Baltimore buses, Light Rail and Metro subway.

WMATA SmarTrip: A rechargeable, reusable card for Washington Metro area Metrorail and local bus system fares.

Non-JHU parking: Public, for-fee parking garages not operated by the university.

WageWorks: The benefits administrator for JHU's commuter and other programs.