NEW YORK—The City Council stamped its approval Tuesday on two bills that will change how New Yorkers drive and commute.
Under the first bill, to take effect in a month, the citywide speed limit will be lowered to 25 miles per hour.
And under the second, to take effect in 2016, businesses with 20 or more full-time employees are required to offer pre-tax commuter benefits to workers.
Workers can set aside a portion of pretax wages for transportation expenses for a small tax break. They can buy Metrocards with pretax dollars, and employers save on payroll taxes as well.
Currently, the tax benefits are available under federal law. But not every employer has chosen to participate, leaving employees footing the bill.
“New York transit riders need relief, and with this bill, they are going to get it,” said Council member Dan Garodnick.
Using a word to refer to passengers who have to stand during their commutes due to overcrowding on trains, Garodnick added, “Straphangers are consistently getting less for more, and this is an important way the city can help them access an important tax break.”
The bill will extend the benefits to 450,000 New Yorkers. Garodnick insisted that the bill will not harm small businesses, which can opt out of the program if they demonstrate true hardship.
Due to concern over approximately 250 traffic casualties the city sees every year, council members passed a bill to lower the official citywide speed limit to 25 mph.
Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito explained why the bill targeted the speed limit, saying, “Speed is the number one contributor to pedestrian deaths.”
The bill only affects regular streets and not highways.
“We have a piece of legislation that’s very rare in New York City,” said Council member David Greenfield. “It actually saves lives, which is unique.”
“It’s going to cut the death rate in half,” said Greenfield. He said that the bill would help New York drivers twofold, preventing them from killing people, and reducing accidents.
Initially, when the 25 mph bill was introduced a few years ago, people laughed and would not give the bill a hearing until two years later, said Greenfield.
“A culture change is coming to New York,” said Council member Ydanis Rodriguez.
Gov. Cuomo signed a bill in August, allowing the city to lower the speed limit to 25 mph. Both measures are part of Vision Zero, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate traffic deaths.
Both bills were passed 13 to 0.