Nassau buys 45 new buses for NICE fleet

A Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) bus in Garden

A Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) bus in Garden City, part of the current fleet that officials said would be increased by 45 vehicles by the end of the year. (Jan 1, 2012) (Credit: Barry Sloan)

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Nassau has purchased 45 new buses to replace the oldest vehicles in the NICE fleet, county officials announced Wednesday.

The new vehicles are scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year, and could be in service as early as this fall, County Executive Edward Mangano said in a statement. The buses will replace those that are at least 12 years old and have 500,000 miles or more on them.

The overall size of the Nassau Inter-County Express fleet will remain at around 300 buses -- nearly two-thirds of which will be 4 years old or younger. Federal transit aid will pay for about 80 percent of the $21 million cost of the new buses, officials said.

The private firm Veolia Transportation took over operation of the fleet in January. Before then, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had run the county's bus system since 1973.

"Since taking over operations, NICE has increased reliability of bus service for customers," Mangano said. "This purchase will provide a significantly improved riding experience for many NICE customers."

NICE chief executive Michael Setzer said having new buses will also reduce the number of breakdowns.

"Keeping the fleet in good working order and avoiding breakdowns, and keeping down the cost of repairs, has been one of our toughest problems since NICE began operating," Setzer said.

Charlene Obernauer of the Long Island Bus Riders Union said NICE customers have seen "significant problems" with older buses, including malfunctioning wheelchair lifts and announcements. The transit advocacy group plans to issue a report on some of the maintenance issues Thursday.

"We need to ensure that as we get new buses in, they're being properly maintained and that there are enough mechanics to properly service the buses," Obernauer said.

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