Remember those big, confusing changes that were coming to SmarBenefits? To the nearly quarter of you who chip in pre-tax money to help offset the price of commuting on Metro, they rightfully created more than a little angst.
Well, apparently, Metro was just kidding.
According to Metro GM John Catoe on his Friday chat:
"I've decided that we need to rethink the changes that we are making. At this point, I do not have any new details to share. I hope to be able to provide more detail about the program in the coming weeks that will be able to clarify these sorts of questions. Rest assured, I have heard what people have to say and your comments will be taken into account as we develop the plan moving forward."Wait a minute! We thought Metro had to implement these new rules because of IRS regulations. Guess not.
Apparently, according to the Greater Greater Washington blog, David Alpert reports Metro will:
"... put a band-aid on the problem of SmartBenefits going back to the employer at the end of the month by letting employers opt out of the new SmartBenefits arrangement and stick with the current system."Sike! (Psych!)
This whole thing was mishandled from day one. We're not sure when the skeletal outlines of the changes were posted on the WMATA Web site (without fanfare), but we reported about them first on Oct. 20, just about two months before these potentially wrenching policies were to go into effect--less than that for employers who were going to have to scramble for new internal mechanisms to return unused SmartBenefits money to their employees.
Secondly, the information posted by Metro created more questions than it answered. Just have a look at the comments. In an attempt to disseminate information, Metro held lengthy seminars to help organizations come to grips with the new rules, but in the end what did we get?
A punt, with the promise of more information in the coming weeks.
Apparently, Metro just wanted to yank your chain. OK, to be fair, it was probably incompetence rather than utter disregard for customers, although today's article in the Post makes you wonder. Regardless, the net effect of this botched policy flip flop was to give already frustrated riders more reason to to blame Metro for additional and unnecessary stress in their lives.
Well done. The more Catoe says "rest assured," the more nervous we get.
Examiner's take on SmartBenefits
Once again, the lack of regulation enforcement leaves riders/Metro employees as victims (WaPo)
Our posts on the lack of Metro regulation: here and here
NY Times on subway grooming