Volume 22, Number 03 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 29 - June 4, 2009
By Sam Schwartz
Dear Transit Sam,
I saw your letter on EasyPayXpress, and I found it very informative. I think it’s about time the M.T.A. let transit riders automatically replenish their MetroCards like drivers have been doing with E-ZPass for a decade or more. Now I’m considering enrolling in the program for my monthly MetroCard. However, I have a question. My employer offers Transit Checks, where we can get up to $230 in pre-tax benefits deducted from our paychecks per month. My question is; how would it work for automatic replenishment? Is there a way to tie that in with my paycheck so I can still get my pre-tax benefits?
Rob, Chambers St.
Great question! Transit Check is a terrific way to save money but I’m afraid it won’t work for most people who have their paychecks reduced by the cost of the MetroCard (thus saving on taxes). However, a few employers offer a Transit Check Quick Pay debit card, a prepaid Visa card that allows you to pay your rail or subway fares and cover commuter parking expenses. Any amount of money you have taken out of your pay, before taxes, each month, is credited to this account. If your employer doesn’t offer the QuickPay debit card, ask him or her to consider it. I’m going to check it out myself for my staff.
Dear Transit Sam,
I’m an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, and I just read your response on the idling question from last week. I am happy to tell you that traffic enforcement agents recently received authority to issue tickets back in April (it was done by rulemaking by the Dept. of Finance, though it wasn’t really publicized like it probably should have been). To my knowledge, the T.E.A.’s have already undergone training on idling enforcement and can now give tickets for idling violations. Also, the general police force and crossing guards will be trained on idling awareness and enforcement next week with E.D.F.’s help. Only consistent enforcement will send the message to New York City drivers that curbside idling is no longer tolerated in our city. The three-minute law has been on the books for 38 years and has been virtually unenforced (as you pointed out). As a result, people have been unaware of the anti-idling law. In February, E.D.F. published a report on NYC idling effects (see www.edf.org/stopidling) showing that unnecessary curbside idling annually spews out as much smog-forming pollution as 9 million trucks driving from the Bronx to Staten Island. E.D.F.’s message to drivers is simple: When you are waiting at the curb — even if it’s only for a short period of time — turn your engine off!
Environmental Defense Fund
Thanks for a great and informative letter. I think it’s terrific traffic agents can now write these summonses, although my informal poll of a few found that most professed to not know anything about it. I know lots of N.Y.P.D. officers and agents read Transit Sam. He’s hoping they get educated!
Sam Schwartz, a former first deputy commissioner of city transportation, is president and C.E.O. of Sam Schwartz Engineering, a traffic engineering consulting firm to private and public entities including the Port Authority at the World Trade Center site. Email your questions to TransitSam@DowntownExpress.com