Thursday, March 31, 2011

Money-Saving Commuter Tax Benefits

The current economic climate prompts us all to find more ways to save money. Your employers may offer a solution that is often overlooked. A pretax commuter benefit program can help you pay for your daily commute – whether you’re a vanpooler, cyclist or mass transit rider - and can save you a good chunk of change.

A commuter benefit program allows you to pay for your commute through a pretax payroll deduction up to the monthly Internal Revenue Service (IRS) limit of $230. If you use public transportation or a vanpool, you can purchase your fare on a tax-free basis up to the monthly IRS limit. Any costs exceeding the IRS limit are typically deducted from your paycheck on an after-tax basis. This pretax benefit can save you more than $1,000 a year.

As of January 2009, the IRS now offers a subsidy for the most environmentally friendly commute option – bicycling. If you are an avid cyclist (bike to work three to four times a week), you are eligible to participate in an after-tax reimbursement program for approved items that support the maintenance and upkeep of your bicycle. This can include a commuter bicycle, bike lock, helmet and bike parking facilities, among other items. Reimbursements are up to $25 a month and are usually reimbursed on a quarterly basis. Keep in mind, though, the bicycle subsidy benefit cannot be combined with the pretax commuter benefit.

Tax-free commuter benefits are only available to commuters through your employers, so ask your employers if they offer such a benefit. It’s easy for your employers: All they have to do is enroll in a pre-tax benefit program. Click here to find out more information that you can share with your employers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

With Telework, Everyone Wins

In recent years, the number of people who telework at least part-time has increased significantly. According to a survey by the National Small Business Association, telework has increased from 19 percent of employees in 2007 to 44 percent in 2010. If the term is new to you, telework (or telecommuting) involves using telecommunication devices, such as a phone, fax, computer and modem, to work outside the traditional office.

In the modern workplace, many professionals only need a secure Internet connection and a phone to do their jobs. Obviously, some tasks cannot be done off-site, but if your profession is one that permits telework, then talk to your supervisor. There are undeniable benefits for everyone.

The Employer:

As a business owner, what would you say if someone showed you how to significantly reduce your operating costs while simultaneously increasing productivity? You’d probably think it was a fairy tale – but it’s not. It’s telework. Multiple studies now confirm that employees are more productive when teleworking; with fewer employees in the office, the employer saves money on heat, electricity and other expenses.

The Employee:

An employee who teleworks, even part-time, will significantly reduce the amount of time and money spent commuting to and from work. The employee will gain a better balance between the job and life outside of work. Time that was previously consumed by a daily commute can now be spent with families and friends, making the employee happier.


Not only is teleworking good for the employee and the employer, it benefits the general public because of its positive effect on air quality. A 2010 study by the Telework Research Network found that if 41 million U.S. residents worked from home half of the time, oil imports could be cut by 37 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 53 million metric tons a year. That’s equivalent to taking nearly 10 million cars off the road.

If you think telework is appropriate for your job but aren’t sure how to discuss it with your employer, 511NYRideshare can help. And if you have a telecommuting success story, share it with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Drivers Can Improve Air Quality, Too

Gas Pumpimage by Indy Charlie used under Creative Commons license

Is giving up your car altogether unrealistic for you? Good news! There are still actions you can take to reduce the environmental impact when you have to drive.

1. Maintain Your Vehicle

A well-maintained vehicle produces 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, has better fuel economy and retains its value longer. Just keeping your tires properly inflated can save around $75 each year. Other items to check regularly include your air filter, vacuum and coolant hoses, oil, and oil filter. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommended maintenance intervals. Have your car adjusted by a skilled technician when necessary.

2. Don’t Top Off the Tank – Stop at the Click

Gas pumps are intentionally designed to stop filling your vehicle’s tank before it’s entirely full. The pump stops with a click when there is just enough extra space in the tank for the gasoline fumes to remain inside instead of escaping into the air. If you “top off” your tank, these fumes end up in the atmosphere. Stopping at the click is a simple habit that goes a long way in reducing air pollution.

3. Cut Back On Idling

Every year, the average driver wastes more than a full tank of gas (24.5 gallons) idling a vehicle. Cutting the average idling time in half would prevent more than 235 pounds of carbon dioxide per person from being released into our atmosphere every year! If you’re going to be idling your vehicle’s engine for more than 30 seconds, it is more fuel efficient to turn your engine off. In fact, idling your vehicle for 30 seconds or longer uses more fuel than restarting your engine. Avoid idling; not only will you save gas and money, but you’ll help keep our air cleaner.

4. Combine Errands into One Trip

Combining multiple errands into one trip is an effective way to make the most of your time and to improve air quality. Your engine operates more efficiently when it’s warm, so you can reduce emissions and save gas by taking care of all your errands in a single trip.

For more tips on improving New York’s air quality, visit