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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Riders Demand Better NICE Bus Service

Riders demand better NICE Bus service

February 21, 2012 by ALFONSO A. CASTILLO /

Riders exit a NICE bus at the Roosevelt
A newly formed watchdog group of Nassaubus riders released its demands Tuesday for better service from NICE Bus -- the day before the system's private operator will unveil plans to reduce service on some routes.

At a news conference outside the Garden City headquarters of Nassau Inter-County Express Bus, the Long Island Bus Riders' Union released its report titled "From Privatization to Discrimination," which pointed out ways it says the system's new bus operator, Veolia Transportation, is not adequately serving some of its riders.

Veolia took over operation of the county system on Jan. 1 from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which had run it since 1973.
The watchdog group's report notes that Veolia did not properly notify residents who speak Spanish or are vision-impaired of its plans to hold community meetings Wednesday and Thursday about cutting some service to fill a $7.3-million budget gap. Veolia published its notifications only in English, the group said.
The report presented several "no-to-low cost" improvements to service, including keeping a constant stock of bus schedules at terminals, stops and buses, keeping audible announcements on all buses for each stop, and making its schedules and customer service phone line available in languages other than English.

The riders' union also called on Veolia to be mindful of all its customers when enacting planned service changes, which the company has said will target lines with low ridership.

"We're concerned about the way that the service cuts are going to impact people who ride buses not just during working hours," said Charlene Obermauer, executive director of Long Island Jobs for Justice, which organized the riders' union.

"Bus riders don't just rely on the bus to go to work," she said. "They rely on the bus to go everywhere."

NICE Bus, on a notice posted on its website, said it will not eliminate any of the 48 lines it took over from the MTA but will put fewer buses on "routes that are least used by customers and are thus the most expensive to operate." Any approved changes would take effect in early April.

Michael Setzer, chief executive of NICE Bus, said in an interview last week that company officials believe the proposed changes will cover the budget gap and avoid further cuts this year.

"We knew that we were going to start the year at one level and we were going to have to find more ... [money] over the year," Setzer said. "We've managed to squeeze a lot of costs out, but we still have some work to do."

Veolia has cut costs by $35 million compared with the MTA's projected costs if it were still running the system this year, he said. A new fuel purchase contract saved $800,000 a year and eliminating some jobs reduced compensation costs.


  1. The bus terminal in Hempstead is disgusting, it smells of urine, it's filthy, there are bums everywhere panhandling for money. It has not been power washed since the MTA had control of it. It has become a dangerous place to be, The security guards are ineffective to say the least. This is NO way to honor Rosa Parks, N I C E should be ashamed of themselves.

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  3. When you pay for the ride, you definitely want a very good service
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