Acknowledging Nassau's "fiscal difficulties," the MTA has made the county an offer to keep operating Long Island Bus through next year even if Nassau cannot immediately fulfill its obligation to fund the system.
The future of LI Bus, which is owned by Nassau, has been in jeopardy since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority earlier this year said it no longer would financially support the system beginning in 2011.
However, in a letter sent this week to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, MTA chairman Jay Walder laid out the conditions under which the MTA would continue operating and partially subsidizing LI Bus.
Those conditions include that Nassau acknowledge in a new written agreement that it is solely responsible for funding its bus system, that it increase its subsidy in 2011, and that it meet its obligation to fully fund LI Bus during Mangano's current term in office.
In a statement, Mangano said only that county officials "are continuing our discussions with the MTA as well as exploring a public-private partnership."
Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said Walder's letter "indicates that the MTA is making a good-faith effort to negotiate a deal with the county to save Long Island Bus."
"Now the question is, how will County Executive Mangano respond?" Slevin said.
Walder's letter also reveals the terms of Nassau's last proposal to maintain its relationship with the MTA, which has operated LI Bus for 37 years.
According to Walder, Nassau, which pays $9.1 million of LI Bus' approximate $140-million annual budget, has offered to increase its subsidy by as much as $5 million beginning in 2012.
The MTA has called on Nassau to increase its subsidy by $26 million. With the county facing a $343-million deficit next year, Mangano has said Nassau cannot afford to pay significantly more.
Whether Nassau agrees to the MTA's terms, transit officials said Wednesday that bus riders should not be immediately worried about losing their ride anytime soon. The MTA is required to give Nassau 60 days' notice before terminating its relationship with the county.