By Bill Parry
The new year brought some relief for the borough’s straphangers, bus riders and railway riders as the new Commuter Benefits Law went into effect on Jan. 1. Under the law, signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in October, employers with 20 or more full-time, non-union employees are now required to offer a commuter benefits program to their employees, allowing them to contribute pre-tax income to purchase monthly transit passes.
As a result, more than 450,000 additional city workers will be able to save up to $800 a year in annual expenses. Last month, the federal government permanently increased the Mass Transit Commuter Benefit to allow employees to use up to $225 of their pre-tax income per month for qualified transit expenses, up from the previous $130 cap—helping nearly one million New York region commuters save even more.
“At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling to stretch their hard-earned dollars, we are saving them hundreds every year and encouraging a greener way to travel,” de Blasio said. “Through powerful advocacy on the local and federal level to support our city’s straphangers, New York City employees and employers alike will feel the benefits of this law in their pocketbooks.”
De Blasio joined U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several city leaders to greet commuters during Monday’s morning rush, and hand out fliers reminding them of the new benefits.
“It is rare that by filling out a simple sheet of paper you can save $800 a year,” Schumer said. “We worked very hard to double the mass transit deduction for commuters and now it is up to them to take advantage by asking employers how to sign up. This is easy to do and costs the employer nothing. It is getting more and more expensive to commute and this now permanent benefit provides some real relief.”
The Department of Consumer Affairs has mailed information to nearly 365,000 businesses and sent an email blast to another 110,000 businesses to inform them of their responsibilities under this new law. DCA is conducting extensive outreach to educate employers about the law, and the second phase of the campaign will launch this spring.
“The commuter benefit program is a win-win for both employers and employees,” DCA Commissioner Julie Menin said. “With the Commuter Benefits Law now in effect, we will continue working with employers across the five boroughs to ensure that its implementation is as smooth as possible and to encourage employees to sign up for this cost-saving benefit.”
The pre-tax money can be used for MTA subway and bus; Long Island Rail Road; Metro-North; Amtrak; eligible ferry, water taxi, vanpool and commuter bus services; and Access-A-Ride.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr