By Maria Rocha-Buschel
To help commuters estimate how much they could save on transit as a result of the new Commuter Benefits Law, City Council Member Dan Garodnick joined representatives from the Rider’s Alliance, Straphangers Campaign and the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Union Square subway station on Sunday with a giant calculator and an oversized tax chart.
Garodnick had originally proposed the legislation in the spring of 2014 and Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the legislation that October, but the councilmember held the event in Union Square last weekend as a reminder that commuters should take advantage of the benefits because the law officially goes into effect on January 1, 2016.
The new law will require businesses with 20 or more employees to offer workers the opportunity to use pre-tax dollars toward transit. Garodnick said that there was previously no requirement for employers and once the law goes into effect, the Department of Consumer Affairs will have the power to enforce it. But he emphasized that he wants to let both employers and employees know about the program’s advantages rather than worry about consequences of non-compliance.
“At this moment we’re really trying to educate,” he said. “We want people to know it’s a benefit that will be available and encourage employers to set it up.”
A representative at Garodnick’s office also noted that the delayed implementation of the law was to give businesses time to learn about the program, and while continuing education about the law, DCA will not issue any penalties for the first six months of next year.
Garodnick said that 450,000 more New Yorkers will be eligible for pre-tax benefits through the program, which saves the average rider $443 a year on monthly MetroCards, based on their tax rate. The council member noted that the program is beneficial for employers as well, since the business will see their tax liability reduced for every employee that enrolls in the program.
“It’s a win for employees but also for employers because it takes income off their obligation to pay a payroll tax on it,” Garodnick said.
Riders Alliance has an online savings calculator at ridersny.org/calculator to help commuters determine how much they would save per year if enrolled in the program.
“This new law will mean serious savings for hundreds of thousands of transit riders,” Riders Alliance campaign manager Rebecca Bailin said. “But the law will only work if riders know about it. That’s why we’re talking to riders and helping folks estimate how much they can save with pre-tax transit benefits.”