MTA ponders cuts that could decimate LI Bus

A waiting MTA bus sitting by the Rockville A waiting MTA bus sitting by the Rockville Centre station while an east bound train enters the station. (March 1, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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The cash-strapped MTA is considering pulling all funding from Long Island Bus, a move that could decimate one of the nation's largest suburban bus systems unless the state or Nassau County makes up the lost millions, transit sources said.

The move, which could strand many of Long Island Bus' 104,000 daily riders, is on a laundry list of proposals expected to be revealed by the MTA at meetings next week dealing with next year's budget. A separate money-saving proposal would extend peak fares on the LIRR and charge peak fares for reverse commuters.

According to transit advocates and Metropolitan Transportation Authority sources, the MTA, as part of its preliminary 2011 budget, will demand that Nassau County and/or New York State come up with $40 million more to keep Long Island Bus running.

Without the MTA's subsidies, which account for nearly a third of the overall LI Bus budget, the system "would literally be obliterated to almost nothing," said Ryan Lynch, spokesman for the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which advocates for regional bus service.

The MTA already axed 11 Long Island Bus lines this year to save $1.6 million toward its $800-million deficit. Transit advocates say without the $40 million the MTA had been paying toward the system, LI Bus could afford to operate only a small number of its 47 current lines.

It's not known how many or which lines might be killed or saved if that happens.

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"It would be a couple of routes here and there," Lynch said. "It really raises the question as to whether Nassau County is even going to have a bus system anymore."

Nassau County, which owns LI Bus, pays just $9.1 million toward the agency's $133 million budget. The state pays around $44 million, and the MTA and fare-paying customers pick up the rest of the tab.

The Suffolk County Transit bus system received no financial aid from the MTA.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan declined to comment on any proposed changes before their formal release next week. The office of Gov. David A. Paterson had no comment. But MTA Board member Mitchell Pally said the long-fought funding battle between MTA and Nassau County has reached a tipping point.

"The relationship between the MTA and Nassau County is continuing to be re-evaluated by both sides," Pally, of Stony Brook, said. "The ability to be able to come to an agreement is very, very important to everyone."

In a statement, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano took umbrage at the MTA's reported proposal, which he said comes after the enactment last year of a "job-killing payroll tax" that has failed to keep the MTA afloat.

"The MTA continues to blame its financial woes on everyone but itself," Mangano said. "The MTA's dysfunction continues to cost Long Island families and seniors through service cuts."

With Sid Cassese

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Inside the Numbers

Transit advocates and MTA sources say the MTA is considering pulling all financial support for Long Island Bus. Here's a look at some of the numbers involved:

The LI Bus budget is $133 million a year.

Nassau County, which owns LI Bus, pays just $9.1 million a year. The state pays about $44 million. The MTA pays another $40 million, and the rest is made up in fare revenue.

Without the MTA's financial support, sources say LI Bus may be able to afford to maintain only a handful of its busiest lines, such as those running to and from Jamaica, Queens.

Last month, MTA Bus eliminated 11 bus lines and reduced service on eight others to save $1.6 million a year.

LI Bus carries about 6 million riders a year on 47 lines.

Fare increases considered

The MTA is considering several options to increase fare revenue by 7.5 percent next year. Some of the ideas on the table:

LIRR

Extend peak schedule times an hour in the morning and evening. Currently, higher peak fares are charged from 6 to 10 a.m. westbound, and 4 to 8 p.m. eastbound.

Charge peak fares for travel in either direction. Now only westbound morning riders and eastbound evening ones are charged peak fares. About 2.4 million customers reverse-commute each year, or less than 3 percent.

Reduce ticket discounts, including the difference between off-peak and peak tickets and the discount for monthly commutation passes.

Offer discounts for customers traveling within Long Island to promote intra-Island commuting.

SUBWAYS AND BUSES:

Charge 25 cents more for single ride MetroCards, raising the fare to $2.50.

Add a $1 surcharge to buy new MetroCards.

Impose a 90-ride limit on previously unlimited 30-day MetroCards.

Reduce discounts for multi-ride MetroCards. Charge 25 cents more for single ride MetroCards, raising the fare to $2.50.

Add a $1 surcharge to buy new MetroCards.

Impose a 90-ride limit on previously unlimited 30-day MetroCards.

Reduce discounts for multi-ride MetroCards.

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