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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.