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Friday, November 23, 2012

Nassau Budget Passes, Bus Funding Remains Stagnant

November 23rd, 2012
by Charlene Obernauer

Nassau County Budget passed early this week, despite advocates concerns that County funding for the buses ($2.6 million annually) would not be enough to avoid fare increases and potential service cuts in 2013.



The recent Hurricane and the crisis that followed showed just how important a reliable public transportation system is for New Yorkers. While many Long Islanders who depended on the Long Island Railroad couldn’t get to work in Manhattan for weeks following the storm, NICE bus was up and running on partial service in a few days. It was the same in New York City; there were no subways, but everyone was hopping on the bus.

In the past few weeks, people who weren’t usually taking the bus were starting to hop on.  Gas was hard to come by. Some people lost their cars in the storm. Public transportation was the best solution. The bus system started to attract “choice riders”, or people who would normally take the LIRR or drive.

Even though Hurricane Sandy showed many middle class Long Islanders just how critical a well-functioning public transportation system is, our members have relied on the buses before Sandy, and many will rely on them for the rest of their lives. Instead of keeping the bus funding stagnant, Nassau County needs to envision a future that involves increased funding for the buses. With cuts to midday and weekend service, as well as long wait times for Able-Ride buses, our current service is simply not good enough.

Able-Ride buses consistently show up outside of riders' thirty-minute windows, sometimes by hours. For people who literally have no other way to get around—taxis oftentimes are not powerlift accessible—they just have to wait. Maybe they’ll miss their doctor’s appointment, or have to go to a later movie, but they will have to wait.

Without increased funding from Nassau County, we don’t know where the money from the buses is going to come from. Veolia’s budget relies on one-shot funding sources that may not come through in 2013. In 2012, $3 million of the NICE budget came from federal funding, and $4 million came from state funding. Riders are afraid that the only way to meet the budget in 2013 will come from a fare increase. And right now, Long Islanders just can’t afford it, and shouldn’t have to—especially when the bus system has already experienced significant cuts.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Long Island Bus Riders' Union Public Forum


Monday, October 29th at 11am
In front of Nassau County Legislative Building
1550 Franklin Avenue, Mineola

Nassau County turns its back to bus riders with a mere $2.5 million being put into our buses!!

$2.5 million is not nearly enough to run our service so that it is dependable, affordable and accessible for all bus riders!!

NICE BUS: NOT SO NICE TO DISABLED PERSONS

This opinion piece was submitted by a Bus Riders' Union member, David O'Donnell:

I am a disabled person that needs to utilize the NICE fixed-route bus and Able Ride system. Using public transportation should be accessible to all people.
Veolia promised to address and work on issues such as: inoperable wheel chair lifts, Brialle signage, audible and visual stop announcements that either don’t work or most times are simply turned off by the bus driver. The Braille signage at Hempstead Terminal is horrific. It is indiscriminately placed on different poles facing different ways, located at the wrong bus locations, and most of the Braille bumps are actually missing, making them impossible to read.
The fixed route bus drivers do not secure persons traveling in wheel chairs, and if you ask them to most times they will just tell you to "put your brakes on."
Able Ride drivers are concerned about their passengers’ safety and secure the wheel chair and the person with excellence. However, one can never tell whether you will be picked up on time or arrive at your location on time. Veolia is making disabled riders wait sometimes for hours!
There is so much more wrong with the NICE bus/Able Ride system but these things must be addressed now for the safety of all bus riders. I know of these things I speak of, as I am legally blind secondary to Multiple Sclerosis, and have a degenerative spinal condition. I only wish to be treated with some dignity by my public transportation system.
 Submitted by David O’Donnell
 David is a member of the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bus Riders' Union Announces New Incident Report Sheet

Meeting after meeting, we have heard concerns from our members about the bus service. Some riders are concerned with the length of their commutes on fixed-route buses, others with their long waits for Able-Ride. To advocate more effectively for better service for bus riders, the Bus Riders' Union has decided to launch a new incident report sheet to accurately support you and your concerns. Click here to fill out form. To download a form that you can then print out and distribute, click here.





If you have an incident that you would like to report, please do so using our online form. We will then follow up with you about the incident, see if there are any violations to the Americans with Disabilities Act or Civil Rights Act, and respond accordingly.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Transit Advisory Committee Meets Today

By Anita Halasz

Nassau County Transit Advisory Committee Scheduled to Meet Today: Thursday, August 2nd, 2012. The TAC is a committee created to oversee the county’s transit system since the January 1st, 2012 privatization.

While this meeting is open to the public, little has been done to notify bus riders. NICE does not have an announcement posted on their website, despite their promise to make this information available, and there have been no posted announcements at bus stations, bus stops or on buses. 


A report/proposal on the 2012 transit budget will be presented at the meeting. We anticipate that this report will reveal important information regarding bus routes, service and fares. As bus riders, we need to come to this meeting to make our voices heard.

The meeting will begin at 4:15pm and will be held at NICE’s office (First Floor Training Conference Room) at 700 Commercial Avenue in Garden City.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Unreliable and Inaccessible: A Report Card on Veolia's Service for Disabled Riders

Today's Press Conference was a huge success, with over 30 bus riders and 7 news outlets attending, we definitely got our point across. Download our report online here. And check out our coverage in Newsday:

NICE Bus gets low grades from disabled riders

A Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) bus in Garden
Photo credit: Barry Sloan | A Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) bus in Garden City, part of the current fleet that officials said would be increased by 45 vehicles by the end of the year. (Jan 1, 2012)
NICE Bus deserves a failing grade for not offering enough visual and audio announcements for disabled customers, according to a report released Thursday by a riders' advocacy group.
The Long Island Bus Riders Union surveyed several NICE buses and stations to put together the report, "Unreliable and Inaccessible: A Report Card of Veolia's Service for Disabled Riders."
The report, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, looked at several areas concerning disabled riders and assigned letter grades.
NICE is owned by Nassau County and has been privately operated by Veolia Transportation since January. The company received its worst grade -- an "F" -- for its audio announcement and visual scrolling systems on buses.
NICE Bus officials planned to release a response to the report later on Thursday.
The Riders Union monitored 28 buses and found that 68 percent made no audio announcements, and 71 percent made no visual announcements.
"We're very disappointed in this," union founder Charlene Obernauer said at a news conference at the Rosa Parks Transit Center in Hempstead Thursday morning.
The report also gave NICE a "C" for accessible signage at stations, saying that more terminals need Braille signs; a "C" for its wheelchair lifts, which the report said malfunction too often; a "D" for offering disabled riders access to fixed route buses; and another "D" for the duration of Able-Ride trips.
NICE got its best grades for its phone-based schedules and Able-Ride appointment system, its online presence, and the duration of fixed route trips. In those areas it scored a "B."


Bus Riders’ Union to Highlight Problems with NICE Bus Service for Disabled Riders on Anniversary of the ADA

Where:  Rosa Parks Bus Terminal
   Intersection of Jackson St and Station Plaza in Hempstead

When:    Thursday, July 26th, 2012 at 11:00am

This Thursday marks the 22nd anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, transportation, State and local government, public and private accommodations, and communication. Access to transportation is fundamental to the independence and full community participation of disabled people.

The Long Island Bus Riders' Union will hold a press conference at the Hempstead Transit Center to celebrate the Birthday of the ADA and to highlight the need for improvements for Nassau County’s disabled riders. We will present Veolia with a graded report card, detailing the existing system and highlighting improvements that must be made. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This is What Happens When You Don't Fund the Buses

On Monday, July 16th, a bus broke down at the Island Park Train Station in Long Beach. Bus riders unsuccessfully attempted to physically move the bus from the tracks so as not to delay the Long Island Railroad. The breakdown, unfortunately, is not uncommon. As less money is being dedicated to the maintenance of the buses, buses are more likely to break down, wheelchair lifts are less likely to work properly; and Nassau County bus riders bear the brunt of a bad deal.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Upcoming Meeting

Bus Riders:
Come to Our Next Meeting
Tuesday, August 14th, 6-7:30pm
250 Fulton Avenue, Suite 607, Hempstead

Hempstead Bus Terminal buses:
n6, n15, n16, n27, n31/n32, n35, n40/n41, n46/n47, n48/n49, n54/n55, n70/n71/n72

Walking directions from Hempstead Bus Terminal:
Walk down Jackson Street toward Main Street. Turn left on Main Street and walk toward Fulton Avenue. Turn right on Fulton Avenue and walk to 250 Fulton Avenue.