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Friday, March 23, 2012

Bus Riders' Union Making An Impact

Earlier this week, Nassau County Legislator Francis Becker called on Veolia to allow the Transit Advisory Committee to review the service changes to take place on April 8th. He did so the day after the Long Island Bus Riders' Union held a press conference and spoke at the legislature on the severity of the cuts and the necessity to have a transparent public process.
The following article appeared in Newsday earlier this week.

Lawmaker seeks hearing on NICE Bus cuts

Nassau County legislator has asked NICE Bus to hold a hearing on its planned service cuts, which he says are coming a lot sooner than he expected.
Legis. Francis Becker Jr. (R-Lynbrook) sent a letter Wednesday to officials with Veolia Transportation -- the operator of NICE Bus -- urging them to hold a hearing before Nassau's newly created Transit Advisory Committee to review proposed service changes set to take effect April 8.
The changes include eliminating midday and weekend service on some low ridership lines. Veolia officials have said the cuts are necessary to close a $7.3-million budget gap. They also say that more riders will benefit from improved service on some lines.
Becker's letter comes after transit advocates raised concerns about Veolia's plan at a Nassau legislative meeting on Monday. The members of the Long Island Bus Riders Union said the cuts are more severe than Veolia is letting on, and would reduce service on some lines by more than 20 percent.
In his letter, Becker said a hearing would "allow the public and elected officials such as myself, to better understand the changes and assess their impact on our district and our riders."
"While we all expected changes to the routes to occur at some point, they have come more quickly and somewhat more dramatically than many of us on the legislature . . . expected they would," he wrote.
Veolia took over operation of Nassau's bus system, previously known as Long Island Bus, from theMetropolitan Transportation Authority on Jan. 1. County Executive Edward Mangano said privatizing the system would save millions and increase accountability.
In a statement, NICE Bus chief executive Michael Setzer said he already has reached out to the advisory committee's attorney to schedule a presentation about the service changes. He noted that Veolia has presented them to the public through two community meetings last month and materials on its website.
"NICE looks forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that the number of riders who will benefitfrom increased service or will experience little change far outnumbers riders who will be inconvenienced by reduced service," Setzer said.
Riders union member Ryan Lynch, of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, called Becker a "champion for transparency" for writing the letter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Long Island Bus Riders’ Union Speaks Out Against Bus Cuts to Vital Social Services and Health Centers

Mineola, NY—Bus riders and advocates spoke out against bus cuts to vital social services and health centers, which will take place on Easter Sunday.
The Long Island Bus Riders’ Union highlighted that service to the United Cerebral Palsy Center, the Nassau County Department of Health, the New Cassel/Westbury and Freeport-Roosevelt Health Centers, and the Nassau County Department of Social Service will be cut on many lines.
Additionally, the Union complained that the announcements of service adjustments on the website were very unclear; and that riders were confused about how exactly their routes will be impacted.
“When we talk to riders, they have no idea that service changes are even happening, or they can’t understand the website. NICE needs to get on the buses and into the community, talk to riders, hand out schedules, and be more transparent so riders know what’s happening,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice.
With a service adjustment plan that will decrease service on 60% of all routes, and weekend and off-peak service cuts equaling a nearly 25% cut in service hours on certain routes; NICE needs to better communicate with bus riders, especially those who will no longer have access to social services and health centers.
“Many of the NICE bus service cuts appear to be in low income communities where more people rely on buses to get to work and to access the few available health care centers that serve their needs. Reducing bus service could lead to unintentional costs for Nassau County if people lose access to employment, or if cuts force more people to use hospital emergency rooms for their health care. Unfortunately, the lack of available information makes it very difficult or impossible to evaluate the full economic consequences of the cuts,” said Dr. Niev Duffy of the Center for Social Policy and Community Engagement at SUNY Old Westbury.
The Union pointed out that cutting midday and weekend service on the N16, N45, and N51 will hurt students and workers who do not work or go to school on typical hours.
“Students have varied schedules, and cutting service in the middle of the day is going to hurt those of us who have morning classes and then go to work or home to our families,” said Christen Rieger, a Sophomore at Nassau Community College.
Finally, the Union urged Veolia Transportation to bring these service cuts to a vote on the Nassau County Transit Advisory Committee; and once again demanded that the Company release ridership data to show how many people will be impacted.
“The complete disregard with how these changes are going to impact riders, particularly those who regularly utilize social services, is worrisome,” concluded Obernauer.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Long Island Bus Riders Union’ Calls on Veolia to Release Ridership Impact Data for Downsized Routes

Mineola, NY—Early this morning, the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union released an Open Letter to Mike Setzer, CEO of Veolia Transportation, calling on NICE bus to release a public analysis of the ridership impact of service cuts. The advocacy organization claimed that cutting midday and weekend service on routs has a huge impact on bus riders, and that these cuts decrease nearly 25% of the total service on each route. The group claims that in order to fully assess the impact of service changes, NICE bus must publically release their ridership data.

The Union emphasized that many bus riders already commute for over an hour to get to their job, and that doubling wait time on many routes will provide a substantial strain on working people in Nassau County.

The Bus Riders’ Union also called on NICE bus to allow a full vetting of the process by calling for a vote on the service adjustments from the Transit Advisory Committee; and called for printed English and Spanish schedules of service adjustments to be made widely available to the bus riding public.

“The majority of bus riders are not going to go to take three buses and a shuttle to get to a community meeting announcing service cuts, so NICE bus needs to get out in the community and talk to people about these adjustments and answer bus riders’ questions about their service,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice, the organization that founded the Bus Riders’ Union.

Bus riders gave Mr. Setzer a deadline of March 8th to publically release the ridership data, one month before the service cuts will be implemented on April 8th, 2012.

An Open Letter to Mr. Mike Setzer, CEO of Veolia Transportation

Dear Mr. Setzer,

We are writing to you because we are concerned about the quality of bus service that will exist on April 8th, 2012. We understand that buses are hard to operate with limited resources and with Nassau County’s limited financial prioritization of public buses. We understand that taking over a transportation system is a gradual process, and that positive change cannot be expected overnight. However, we also understand just how substantial the service cuts that will be implemented on April 5th will be for bus riders in Nassau County.

Cutting midday and weekend service on routes has a huge impact on bus riders, and overall cuts nearly 25% of the total service on each route. Additionally, doubling the wait time for riders in between buses is concerning, as many bus riders are already commuting for over an hour every day.

On several occasions, we have requested a public analysis of exactly how many people will be impacted by the service cuts. In order to fully assess impact these service changes will have on riders and plan accordingly, we are requesting a public analysis of the ridership impact by March 8th, 2012, one month before service changes will occur.

As a measure of good faith moving forward, we also request that these changes are reviewed by the Transit Advisory Committee, and therefore have oversight by Nassau County.

Finally, in communicating service changes to the public, it is critical to have maps available to riders. We recommend posting maps (in English and Spanish) on poles and at terminals at least three weeks before the service changes begin, and having NICE staff explain complicated re-routing to bus riders. In order to make a smooth transition into service changes, bus riders need to know what the changes will be and how it will impact their daily commute.

Thank you,

Steering Committee
Long Island Bus Riders Union