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CEO: NICE Bus sets ridership record

Mike Setzer, Vice President of Veolia transportation, speaks

Mike Setzer, Vice President of Veolia transportation, speaks to the five-member Transit Advisory Committee during their first meeting about the privatization of the NICE bus system that Veoilia took over in January in Mineola. (April 25, 2012) Credit: Jason Andrew

Nassau's bus system carried more riders during one day last week than in any other day in five years, the chief of NICE Bus reported during the first meeting of the system's governing committee.

NICE Bus chief executive Michael Setzer told the five-member Nassau Transit Advisory Committee that on April 18, about 105,000 trips were taken on NICE Bus, "a modern record."

"It means we're meeting the needs of a lot of people," Setzer said at the Mineola meeting.

NICE Bus has made other important gains since Veolia Transportation took over the system from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in January, Setzer said. A customer satisfaction survey taken in March showed significant improvements in every category as compared to a survey done in December, Setzer said. Overall satisfaction increased from 33 percent to 47 percent, he said.

Still, Setzer acknowledged that the system has hit some "bumps" along the way, including overcrowding and late buses on its busiest route, the N6, which runs from Hempstead to Jamaica via Hempstead Turnpike. Veolia is working to address the issues, such as adding stops on the N6 express route, he said.

Setzer also repeated Veolia's assertion that Nassau's privatization of its bus system has saved the county $26 million annually as compared to the MTA's costs. But some speakers at the meeting weren't convinced.

"It just seems impossible, to be honest," said Nassau Community College student and bus rider Luke Martinez at the hearing. He worried that Veolia would eventually resort to major fare hikes and steep service cuts to drive up profits.

Legs. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) also told committee members that they should demand to see some of the data to back up Veolia's claims of having cut costs without significantly impacting most riders.

Committee member Samuel Litman assured Denenberg they would do just that. "We're not going to take Mr. Setzer's word for it," Litman said.

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