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LI Bus service cuts catch riders unaware on first day

A sign reads that the N28 bus stop

A sign reads that the N28 bus stop is discontinued at the Roslyn Railroad Station in Roslyn, Monday. (June 28, 2010) Credit: Ed Betz

Eva Ramirez waited in the sweltering heat Monday morning for a bus that would never come.

"There's no more 28?" Ramirez, 56, asked, cupping her hand to her mouth upon realizing that the bus - the N28 serving Roslyn - was no longer in service. "I don't know what's going to happen. I'm really surprised."

Ramirez was one of the estimated 13,000 Long Island Bus customers affected by the agency's cuts - most of which took effect Monday. In total, 11 lines were completely eliminated, and eight others were significantly scaled back. The cuts primarily targeted bus lines with low ridership.

"These are really the worst cuts to the service since the 1970s," said Ryan Lynch, spokesman for the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, as he stood among the confusion at the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road station, where several commuters scrambled to find alternatives after learning their bus lines had been axed. Lynch said the cuts impacted about a third of all LI Bus service.

Among the impacted riders was Maria Bynoe, of Hempstead, who had to walk an extra 15 minutes to catch a bus because her usual line, the N17, was no more.

The delay caused her to miss a connecting bus at Hicksville, and then ponder the option of paying for a taxi to take her to her job as a nurse in Plainview, or be late.

"This is total chaos," Bynoe said, as she walked anxiously around the Hicksville Station, complaining about her predicament. "It's not fair to me."

However, Jerry Mikorenda, a spokesman for LI Bus, said it was a "quiet day" Monday, and that its Travel Information Center had received no reports of issues relating to the cuts. "All appears to be running smoothly," Mikorenda said.

Transit officials have said the cuts to LI Bus, which aim to save $1.6 million a year, are necessary given the MTA's unprecedented $800-million budget shortfall. Worsening the agency's fiscal picture is the refusal by Nassau County, which owns LI Bus, to adequately fund the agency, MTA officials have said.

In a statement, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano called the cuts "unconscionable," especially given the MTA's newly imposed payroll tax, which costs Nassau $1.6 million this year. "They're collecting more, and servicing less," Mangano said.

MTA officials have said that they tried to minimize any confusion from the cuts by publicizing them well in advance on the agency's website, in e-mail alerts and on notices posted inside buses and at bus stops.

Still, many riders had no idea they were coming.

Jimmy Abarega, 37, of Jamaica, got off a Long Island Rail Road train in Farmingdale and immediately walked over to the stop for the N95, which he takes to get to his job as a cook at a nearby restaurant.

Not 10 minutes earlier, an LI Bus sign crew had knocked down the bus stop's sign.

"I can't believe this," said Abarega, 37, who opted to make the 20-minute walk to complete his trip, rather than pay for a taxi.

Near the Hicksville LIRR station, more than a dozen Carle Place teenagers lost much of their enthusiasm after they discovered that the bus they counted on taking to Jones Beach would not be arriving.

"We were like, 'Oh, no bus. Now what?' " said Brianna Rogers, 16, who ended up taking four buses and three hours to get to the beach. "It's aggravating. We don't really know what to do."

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