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Wayne County plans to provide its employees who use public transportation to commute to work with free transit passes.

The move is designed to encourage ridership of public transportation, said County Executive Warren Evans.

“This new benefit provides our employees a cost-free way to commute to and from work while promoting the positive impact of increasing the utilization of public transit,” he said Wednesday in a statement.

“Getting more people out of their vehicles and onto buses is good policy. It eases traffic congestion and reduces the environmental impact of cars on the road while bolstering transit ridership.”

Under a new program, which will go into effect Jan. 1, the county will provide participating employees with passes for the Detroit Department of Transportation, or DDOT, system or the SMART system. The passes range from $12 to $77 per pass per month, depending on the type of pass.

Evans said any county worker — seasonal, part-time or full-time — is eligible for the program. The county has about 3,700 employees.

He said about 60 county employees use pre-tax dollars deducted from their paychecks to buy transit passes to get to and from work.

County employees who do not use public transportation currently can request a pass under the program.

Employers may provide qualified transportation benefits to employees tax-free up to a defined limit under Internal Revenue Service regulations.

Next Tuesday, voters in Metro Detroit will go to the polls to decide the fate of a proposal to create a Regional Transit Authority and a 20-year, 1.2-mill property tax to raise $4.6 billion for public transit improvements, including rapid bus routes, a rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit, an airport shuttle service and a regional fare card system.

On Thursday morning, Evans and other leaders of Wayne County communities are scheduled to hold a news conference in Dearborn to highlight how residents and businesses will benefit from the proposal’s approval on Nov. 8.

Evans said a reliable public transit system is critical to Metro Detroit.

“A reliable, comprehensive public transit system is essential for our urban and suburban region to offer a high quality of life to everyone and to foster a competitive business environment that attracts investment and talent,” he said.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

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