NICE bus line changes kick off Sunday

Commuters board a NICE bus in Mineola. (Jan. Commuters board a NICE bus in Mineola. (Jan. 3, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Major changes to Nassau's bus system will take effect on Sunday, providing faster trips for thousands of commuters but leaving some riders without a bus.

On some NICE Bus lines, riders will wait twice as long for a bus. On others, midday service will no longer be offered. And the 45, 48 and N51 will drop Saturday service altogether.

The service changes aim to close a $7 million deficit and provide better service for about 11,000 of the system's 35,000 unique daily riders. The changes include the creation of new express buses to and from Queens and some severe cuts on routes with low ridership.

Officials with Veolia Transportation -- the private company that took over Nassau's bus system in January -- said only about 1,000 riders will be hurt by the deepest cuts, although many more may have to wait a few extra minutes for their bus.

NICE Bus chief executive Michael Setzer said he remains confident the changes will be a net gain for riders.

"I think more people are going to be pleased than displeased," he said.

Legis. Francis X. Becker Jr. (R-Lynbrook) said that regardless of how few people are hurt by the cuts, he is "disappointed" that Veolia did not bring its plan before the county's newly created Transit Advisory Committee.

The five-member board, which has yet to formally meet, was formed in February to oversee the system.

"There's always people who are not going to be happy," he said. "We have a transportation board so that these feelings could be aired out and people could have their say. And that's not happening."

Setzer said he offered to give the committee a presentation on the changes, but the county never arranged it.

Ryan Lynch, of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit transit advocacy group, also criticized Veolia for not doing enough to communicate with the public ahead of Sunday's changes.

"This was billed as a more transparent process. But clearly, it hasn't been transparent," Lynch said.

Setzer said Veolia has done "everything we can think of" to educate riders about the changes. He said the company distributed 85,000 postcards, brochures and maps detailing the changes, posted 2,000 signs inside buses, and held six hours of community meetings last month.

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