By David Madden

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If Congress  fails to extend a tax benefit that is due to be slashed in half at the end of this month, it could mean higher commuting costs for many who use mass transit.

The program allows workers to set aside pre-tax dollars from their paychecks for commuting.  Right now, those using mass transit can spend up to $245 per month out of that pre-tax fund.

But come January, that could drop to $130 per month unless Congress passes an extension of a bill that lets caps keep pace with those for commuters who drive to work and pay to park.

Thousands who ride SEPTA could be affected, according to commuter service manager Jennifer Scimone.

“They would not be able to take the full amount out of their pay, pre-tax, to pay for the cost of their pass,” she notes, “so it would affect anybody riding a zone 2, a zone 3, or our ‘Anywhere’ passes.”

The local congressional delegation is pushing for another extension, but Scimone suggests a move toward permanent parity between drivers and transit riders would make more sense.