Oct. 28, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Many New Yorkers will get some relief from the daily commute starting in January.
A new city law called the Commuter Tax Benefit goes into effect on Jan. 1 that will extend transit benefits to more than 450,000 New Yorkers, city officials estimate.
The law, which Mayor Bill de Blasio signed on Oct. 20, 2014, will require employers of 20 or more full-time, non-union employees to offer commuter benefits for eligible transportation including the MTA, LIRR, Metro-North and Access-A-Ride.
According to the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will enforce the law, commuters can use up to $130 per month from pre-tax income to pay for transit. This means that commuters purchasing a monthly MetroCard could save around $400 per year, a DCA spokesperson said.
The Commuter Tax Benefit extends an existing but currently voluntary program.
The DCA will give businesses until July 1 before issuing violations to those that do not comply with the new law. Employers will have 90 days to correct the violation before receiving a $100 to $250 fine.
Several in the western Queens community were pleased to hear about the tax break.
“This sounds like a win-win,” Marie Torniali, executive director of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition, said.
“I know personally many people who already have this where they work, and it’s a savings for them,” she added.
Melissa Orlando, founder of Access Queens/7 Train Blues, similarly said, “anything that is a benefit to residents that makes their commuting life easier can’t be a bad thing.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides, chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and a co-sponsor on the legislation, said, “as we move closer to our goal of reducing our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, we must encourage green habits. Using public transportation is an environmentally-friendly habit that will help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”
“That’s why I cosponsored this legislation which will make public transportation more cost-effective for the working men and women throughout our city,” he added.
“Helping commuters defray the costs of transportation will help them keep more of their hard-earned pay for other necessary expenses. I encourage everyone who qualifies to take advantage of this valuable program,” State Sen. Michael Gianaris said.
The DCA kicked off an outreach campaign to raise awareness for the new law on Monday.
Reach reporter Jackie Strawbridge at [email protected]