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.