Can You Use Commuter Benefits For Citi Bike? | PedalChef

Key Takeaways

  • Unfortunately, you cannot use a commuter benefits card for Citi Bike. Bicycle transportation is specifically not covered.
  • Often, getting your own bike is better than a Citi Bike membership. However, Citi Bike lets you hop on a bike at any station and take your bike elsewhere, so it is very convenient if you need a bike but don't have a bike with you.
  • Citi Bike can charge you as much as $1200 if you don't bring the bike back or don't bring it back for too long. Be careful with any bike you rent, don't let it get stolen.
  • Commuter benefits pay for ferries, buses, subways, and some rail travel. You might be able to use it to get to work for free even if it won't cover Citi Bike.
  • Commuter benefits are not for everyone. If your employer has less than 20 non-union employees, they don't have to pay commuter benefits. Independent contractors, former employees, and government employees do not get commuter benefits.

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In New York, employers often have to give workers commuter benefits. Can you use commuter benefits for Citi Bike, or only for other forms of transportation?

Unfortunately, you can't use commuter benefits for Citi Bike. This is because of a federal tax law that makes it impossible. You can only use commuter benefits for other forms of transportation, such as subways, buses, ferries, and eligible trains.

I live in New York and cannot use my commuter card for Citi Bike bicycle rentals. They would have to change a law to make this possible. I use my commuter benefits for subways.



What is Citibike?

Citi Bike is a New York bicycle-sharing system. Citi Bike users borrow a bicycle from a Citi Bike station, ride to their destination, and drop the bike off at another station.

Citi Bike is a privately owned, for-profit business and not a free public service. The service costs $185 per year (for up to 45 minutes per day) or $3.50 for a single 30-minute trip. An unlimited number of 30-minute trips costs $15 per day.

Citi Bike was proposed in 2008 and launched in 2013. Despite some initial setbacks, Citi Bike is successful. They were bought by the ride-sharing company Lyft in 2018.

Citi Bike Rules

If you do not obey Citi Bike's rules, they will charge you extra fees. If you use a bike for longer than permitted, you have to pay extra.

If someone loses a bike, has it stolen, or does not return it in 24 hours, they may have to pay as much as $1200. The late fees are:

  • $2.50 for every 15 minutes late for people paying an annual membership
  • $4 per 15 minutes late for day pass users
  • $3 for every 30 minutes late for single-ride users

What Are Commuter Benefits?

Traveling to and from work costs time and money. Commuter benefits compensate workers for the time and sometimes also they spend going to and from work. Employers offer these benefits to improve employee morale and to attract better employees.

Can You Use Commuter Benefits For Citi Bike?

You can't use commuter benefits to rent a bike in New York. This is unfortunate but is unlikely to change because it goes against federal tax laws.

You can only use a commuter card to pay for another method of transportation. If you want to use Citi Bike, you will have to pay for everything yourself.

Commuter Benefits Are Mandatory in NYC

Since January 1, 2016, employers have been legally required to pay commuter benefits for full-time workers. Not all workers are eligible, but many are.

Many forms of transportation are covered by these mandatory commuter benefits, but many others are not. A Citi Bike membership is not included.

Federal tax law prevents pre-tax income from being used for bicycle rental fees. This prevents you from using a commuter card to pay for Citi Bike rentals. You cannot get reimbursement for renting a bicycle under current federal tax law.

Is There Anything That Can Be Done About This?

You could try writing letters to your senator to get the laws changed. You could explain that rented bicycles are a cheap, popular, and environmentally friendly form of transportation that commuter benefits should pay for.

Who Counts as a Full-Time Employee?

30 hours per week is enough to qualify for commuter benefits in New York. Anyone who has worked for 30 hours per week on average over the last four weeks is eligible.

Only some of the work has to be within New York. You can split the 30 hours between working in New York and working elsewhere and receive commuter benefits.

What Forms of Transportation Are Not Covered?

You cannot use commuter benefits to cover parking costs. You also cannot use them for any bicycling expenses, not even expenses other than Citi Bike rentals.

Which Employees Are Not Covered?

The United States government, the New York State government, and the New York City government do not have to pay these benefits. Employers not required to pay payroll taxes (federal, state, or city) do not have to pay commuter benefits. Workers who live in the city but work outside of it do not receive mandatory commuter benefits.

Only employers with 20 or more non-union employees have to pay these benefits. Any full-time worker who is part of a collective bargaining agreement does not receive benefits.

The benefits only apply to a company's current employees, and never to their former workers. No one has to pay benefits to independent contractors.

What Can You Use Commuter Benefits For?

You can use commuter benefits for the New York public transport system. This includes:

  • MTA subway and bus
  • Amtrak
  • New Jersey Transit
  • Metro-North
  • Long Island Rail Road
  • Access-A-Ride

Commuter benefits also cover eligible commuter bus, ferry, and vanpool services.

What Are the Advantages of Commuter Benefits?

If a company voluntarily offers commuter benefits, it can make employees loyal to that company. Employees dislike the commute, and employers can show they care by paying for some of it.

Things that benefit workers can also improve the quality of work they do. A city might benefit from requiring commuter benefits if it makes workers more productive. Better workers might also be attracted to the city and be less likely to leave the city.

Will Anyone Make Commuter Benefits Work for Citi Bike?

Possibly, someone could pass a bill that would make commuter benefits include bicycle rentals in New York. Oregon representative Earl Blumenauer has introduced several bicycle transportation bills, some of which have passed.

Blumenauer wants commuter benefits to cover bicycle transport in Oregon. Possibly a similar bill could pass in New York soon, but it might not happen for a long time. For now, commuter benefits are only good for other forms of transportation.

Is There Anything Like Citi Bike Elsewhere?

Yes, many cities in many countries have bicycle-sharing programs. They can either be private companies or funded by the government.

Bicycle-sharing programs only became popular fairly recently. The vast majority of bicycle-sharing programs appeared in the 2000s and 2010s and not the 1990s or before. They usually work similarly to Citi Bike - users pick up and drop off bikes at stations, and stations do not have employees working at them.

They are common in the United States. In 2017, as many as 35 million bike-sharing trips took place. Many other US cities including Washington, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have bicycle-sharing programs.

Does Citi Bike Have Any Disadvantages?

Not everyone is in favor of bike-sharing programs, not even if they are from private companies. For example, bicycle shop owners might have their businesses hurt by these programs. The docking stations also take up room that could be used for parking.