Public transportation riders and advocates Monday urged state lawmakers to push for increased funding for Suffolk County's bus system to better serve college students, the disabled and the county's workforce.
The group, which included representatives from nonprofit planning groups the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Vision Long Island, rode the S40 bus from Patchogue to the Bay Shore office of Republican Sen. Phil Boyle and dropped off a petition signed by 1,500 people supporting increased Suffolk transit funding.
The group emailed the petition to other lawmakers.
"The time is now for public transportation to be an answer, not a problem," said Dawn Wing, a transit rider and librarian at Suffolk County Community College who helped circulate the petition.
The petition calls on the State Legislature to approve an additional $10 million in funding for Suffolk County Transit -- an increase of nearly 50 percent over the state's current level of aid, $22 million.
The group says the money could go a long way toward adding much-needed evening and Sunday service on several routes.
"We all know that these are some tough times economically, and to have transportation to and from work is imperative," said bus commuter Octavia Clarkson, who also organized the petition.
In a statement, Boyle said he agreed that the state needs to update its formula for calculating state aid to transit agencies. He noted that the state picks up a far greater percentage of costs for transit agencies in Albany, Westchester and Nassau than it does in Suffolk.
"My constituents in Suffolk County aren't looking for a free ride; we're just advocating for our fair share," Boyle said.