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SAVE Award winner announced

Education’s Fred Winter proposes cutting costs of transit benefit without reducing appeal.

The 2012 SAVE award is going to Education Department program officer Frederick Winter, acting Budget Director Jeffrey Zients announced Friday.

Winter proposed that federal employees who use public transit benefits switch from Metro’s regular fares to the reduced senior citizen fare immediately after they become eligible. In the Washington area, Zients said, such a move would lower the employee’s travel cost by half, without reducing any of the benefit.

Winter, who commutes on the Orange Line from the East Falls Church Metro station in Virginia, drew 19,000 votes for his scheme, out of 46,000 ballots cast. His win entitles him to meet personally with President Obama in the Oval office. His Metro savings idea, like previous winners in the four-year-old efficiency contest, will be included in the president’s next budget. (The runners-up will be considered for inclusion.)

Winter, a Ph.D. who worked previously for the National Endowment for the Humanities, has training in archaeology and takes an active interest in folk music.

How did the idea come about? “I turned 65 and realized there’ s a transit benefit and immediately I went down and got it,” Winter told Government Executive. “I mentioned it to colleagues, and found that many didn’t know it existed. Others were shy about admitting they were over 65, and others figured it was a benefit not being paid by them anyway.” Because the age at which full Social Security benefits kick in is now 66, that leaves “a Metro benefit window for a year,” Winter added.

In a blog post Friday, Zients said: “These SAVE Award ideas, along with others submitted over the last four years won’t solve our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, but they represent common-sense steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our government, and they are saving the government hundreds of millions of dollars.”