NYC Subway-compressed Photo: Sakeeb Sabakka/Flickr

2016 has not seemed kind to New York City subway riders so far. A recent MTA announcement revealed that over 30 stations will be closed for a months-long revamp that includes “improved lighting” in the stations.

But a new law and a change to an existing federal program are expected to provide relief to subway riders.

The City’s Commuter Benefits Law, which came into effect January 1st, requires employers with at least 20 full-time employees to offer a pre-tax commuter savings program. Employees contribute pre-tax income toward monthly transit expenses — usually in the form of an Unlimited MetroCard or a Metrocard pre-loaded with a given amount. The pre-tax program can save subway riders up to $800 a year and should affect more than 450,000 New Yorkers.

“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,” said Senator Charles Schumer.

In December, the federal government also increased the Mass Transit Commuter Benefit under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act. Under the law, commuters can use up to $255 of pre-tax income per month for transit expenses, up from $130 previously.

This pre-tax money can be used for various mass transit, including MTA subway and bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, as well as ferry, water taxi, vanpool and commuter bus services and Access-A-Ride.

The City has long advocated for this federal extension. “Through powerful advocacy on the local and federal level to support our city’s straphangers, NYC employees and employers alike will feel the benefits of this law in their pocketbooks,” said Mayor de Blasio.

If employees suspect their employer is in noncompliance of the Commuter Benefits Law, they can report it to the Department of Consumer Affairs by emailing or by calling 311.

Employers currently have a six-month grace period to take care of violations, but after July, employers will have 90 days to cure violations before penalties are imposed.

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