County Executive Rob Astorino defended a controversial decision to close a county bus route during his State of the County speech Wednesday night, saying he could not justify the exorbitant cost.
Dozens of people say they have been left without rides to work or commuter trains since the county's Route 76 line was canceled, but the contract cost the county $240,000 a year to transport about 30 regular riders, Astorino said.
"That's $8,000 a year per passenger, or $665 a month," Astorino said. "To put that subsidy in context, just go online or look in any newspaper to see what a monthly lease on a luxury car costs these days."
The county executive went on to rattle off a list of luxury options -- "leather, wood trim, heated seats, Bluetooth" -- but said he had "no intent to be flip" when discussing what he said was a difficult decision.
The Route 76 bus line is now covered by the 13 line, which mirrors the old route with the exception of some residential neighborhoods south of Playland Parkway.
The Board of Legislators had restored funding for the line, overriding a veto by Astorino, but the contract wasn't renewed. Now the board is opposing an application by Liberty Lines Transit Inc. with the state Department of Transportation to provide service on the line permanently.
Joe Murphy, co-founder of the Rye Senior Advocacy Committee, said during a public hearing at Rye City Hall that it's offensive that the public is paying for a service without benefiting from it.
"Why should I be paying taxes on something that isn't going to happen?" he said. "That's stealing, in my opinion."
As a whole, the county's Bee-Line bus system operates in the red. Despite 100,000 daily riders and more than 30 million riders per year, "Every Bee-Line route loses money," Astorino said.
"There are no profitable routes to subsidize unprofitable ones," he added.
Westchester County spokeswoman Donna Greene said during an interview that the bus line served about 30 regular passengers and was less cost-effective than other lines, so the county came up with an alternative plan.
David Kucera, president of Port Chester-Rye Transit, said at the hearing that his company served Route 76 for more than 40 years and that he's willing to work with elected officials to lower costs, if necessary.
"We are ready and willing and able to provide the service at a cost savings," he said.
Tuesday's hearing, which was attended by about 40 people, was conducted by the Westchester County Board of Legislators Government Operations Committee and Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Judy Myers (D-Mamaroneck), chairwoman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, said a video of the meeting would be sent to the Department of Transportation as proof that the public wants the service restored.
"Your voices have helped a great deal, and I hope at some point I will be coming back here with really good news," she said.