A private bus line has begun taking students, faculty and staff from Stony Brook University to Queens and Manhattan, offering the first daily, nonstop service from a Long Island college to the city.
The 7Bus, a private, Bohemia-based transit company formerly known as Bolt Bus Long Island, began the round-trip, seven-day-a-week transport on Dec. 9.
The service is open to the public as well as to the campus community. It is an alternative to the Long Island Rail Road trains that leave from the edge of campus and — as local colleges market their proximity to Manhattan — the bus helps link the Island's easternmost university to the city.
"Our biggest focus is to meet our student need and operate in a sustainable way, with minimal impact on the environment," said James O'Connor, director of sustainability and transportation operations for the university. O'Connor said the bus will help take cars off local arteries to the campus, such as Nicolls Road and Route 347.
The bus will run year-round, depending on demand.
The idea came from students who participated in a transportation advisory panel in the spring. A campus survey that yielded more than 1,900 responses showed more than 70 percent of students were in favor of adding the bus service.
"It's an additional perk of being here," said Mario Ferone, 21, a senior who lives off-campus in Stony Brook. "If there's nothing going on on campus that interests you, you can just go to New York City."
Many Long Island colleges shuttle students to LIRR stations to access the city, including Hofstra University, Adelphi University, LIU Post, New York Institute of Technology, Briarcliffe College in Bethpage and Five Towns College in Dix Hills. Students at Farmingdale State College have a short walk to the train station, spokeswoman Kathy Coley said.
The schools also provide occasional bus service to the city for special academic, cultural and sporting events, various college officials said.
No hike in student fees
Ferone, a political science and economics major from Plainview, was among the Stony Brook students who sat on the transportation panel. He said they were overwhelmingly in favor of the 7Bus, particularly because the plan did not raise tuition and/or fees. Students who don't want to use it aren't paying for it, he said.
7Bus is separate from existing transportation services offered by the university, which are paid for by a $265 per year transportation fee for full-time students, less for part-time students.
Ferone said the Friday afternoon LIRR trains are typically very crowded, so people are looking for other options, especially if they don't have cars or don't want to drive into the city.
In addition, "people get really tired of the delays of the railroad," Ferone said.
The 7Bus will leave the Student Activities Center and stop in Rego Park, Queens, and three points along Third Avenue in Manhattan. The 44-passenger, light green buses have free Wi-Fi, plasma television monitors, reclining leather seats, a newsstand library and personal power outlets. The trip is estimated to take 90 to 120 minutes, officials said.
A range of fares
The one-way fare ranges from $7 to $15 depending on demand and when a ticket is purchased. To return to campus, students and other riders go to bus stops located along Lexington Avenue on 40th, 47th and 59th streets.
On the LIRR, a one-way, peak ticket from Stony Brook University to Penn Station is $17.50; $12.75 for off-peak. The ride takes about an hour and 45 minutes, according to the LIRR's schedules.
Mike Schoolman, president of 7Bus, said the company was thrilled to get a permit to operate out of the university and began a "soft launch" last week.
"There seems to be a lot of back-and-forth commuting between Queens and Stony Brook, and we are definitely very optimistic," Schoolman said.
Ridership last week was light, with just a handful of students taking the bus, Schoolman said.
He believes it was due to students taking final exams all week, and said more accurate ridership data probably will not be available until after students return for spring semester in the third week of January.
7Bus tickets are only available via online reservation, and reservations are required in order to board the bus and use the service. In addition to the Stony Brook campus, the 7Bus company provides service from Riverhead, Ronkonkoma and Melville to the east side of Manhattan.