Citi Bike may be broke, falling into disrepair, and confronting systemic issues which threaten its viability as a public good, but we still love it, as do many New Yorkers: ridership is on the rise, even as the system teeters on the brink of sustainability. Now comes news that Citi Bike, along with bike-share systems across the country, may get a lifeline from Congress.
Crain’s New York reports that last Thursday, New York’s very own Senator Charles Schumer introduced an amendment to Congress that would allow bike-share memberships to be purchased with pre-tax dollars. Essentially, the proposal would provide a tax break for employers who purchase memberships for their employees.
Schumer is an influential member on the Senate Finance Committee and an avid cyclist. He tacked the amendment onto a larger tax bill, which was passed by the committee on Thursday. Now it heads to the Senate floor. Schumer’s legislation would let employees and employers spend up to $240 a year on bike share memberships (current annual Citi Bike memberships are $95), and then subtract the cost from their taxable income—meaning the government would be effectively subsidizing bike-share rides.
The break would soften the inevitable price increase that’s coming from Citi Bike operator Alta Bicycle Share. Similar tax benefits already exist for subway and other commuter options, including for people who ride their own bikes to work.
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.