LI Bus riders stuck in middle of dispute

An N47 Long Island Bus turns onto Hempstead An N47 Long Island Bus turns onto Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Long Island Bus riders said Friday that they're not interested in who is responsible for the agency's fiscal woes. Their only concern is how they'll get around if the Nassau bus system suffers deep service cuts.

"I think it's stupid," said Jerome Maxwell, 20, of Uniondale, as he waited at the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center for a connecting bus to Adelphi University in Garden City, where he works and studies. "Most of us don't have cars to drive. This is our only means of transportation."

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said earlier this week that they may have to drastically reduce LI Bus service this spring unless Nassau County fulfills its obligation to adequately fund its bus system. MTA board member Mitchell Pally said bus service may be cut by more than half.

Nassau contributes $9 million to LI Bus' $144-million budget. MTA officials said $26 million more is needed to maintain existing levels of LI Bus service.

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At Nassau bus stops Friday, riders said they did not appreciate being stuck in the middle of the funding dispute.

Cory White, 29, of Flushing, Queens, has taken the N51 to Merrick every Friday morning for the past two years to meet a friend for breakfast. He said service cuts should be a last resort.

"They say they don't have money so they cut [bus] lines, but they find money to buy new buses," said White, referring to the fleet of new vehicles rolled out in 2009.

"I don't care who's at fault. They shouldn't cut the buses," said Cherise Hinton, 23, of Roosevelt, as she transferred buses at Roosevelt Field Mall to get to her job as a secretary at Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream. "I'm already getting up two hours early to be somewhere that's 15 minutes away by car."

Eric Alexander, executive director of the nonprofit Vision Long Island, which has worked to save Nassau bus service, said cuts to LI Bus would be more harmful to its riders than cuts to any other MTA transit service.

"It's low-wage workforce. It's folks who work in a lot of the small businesses throughout Nassau. It's students. It's folks who don't have access to an automobile," Alexander said.

Mary Walker, who lives in Williston and can't drive because she has glaucoma, rides on several bus lines each week, including the N6, N23, N40 and N22, to get to her home-health-aide work sites.

Walker, 50, said she understood the financial pressures facing LI Bus, but said neither side was thinking about bus riders. She encouraged officials to join her at the Mineola Intermodal Centre one day.

"I think they should get out there and try it and see how it feels," Walker said. "Especially when it's cold outside."

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