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.