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Nassau bus riders sound off on fare hikes

A rider inserts a metrocard into a fare

A rider inserts a metrocard into a fare box on a NICE bus at the Rosa Parks Transit center in Hempstead. (Jan. 3, 2012) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Nassau bus riders and advocates Thursday sounded off on how the MTA's planned fare hike will affect them.

The fare increases, which take effect Sunday, will only affect MetroCard users, who will pay $2.50 for a ride and also see increases on time-based unlimited-ride passes. Cash-paying bus riders will continue paying the current $2.25 fare.

Transit advocacy groups, including the Long Island Bus Riders Union and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, on Thursday held a public forum in Garden City to update riders on the hikes and also discuss NICE's successes and failures since it took over Nassau's bus system from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year.

The forum was attended by about two dozen bus riders and Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont).

"I know a lot of people don't know the fare increase is going to come into place," said Charlene Obernauer, founder of the Long Island Bus Riders Union. "We don't want them to just purchase a MetroCard and not realize there's a fare increase until they see it on their credit card."

Bus rider Michael Ricca, of Mineola, said the increase is hard to justify when buses routinely arrive very late, or don't arrive at all. In addition, Ricca said he shouldn't be forced to give up his MetroCard to avoid a fare hike.

"A card is convenient and quicker," Ricca said. "I don't want to carry that much change around."

NICE officials have said raising fares for MetroCard users is necessary to avoid having Nassau bus riders pay the MTA step-up fees for transferring to New York City buses.

"If NICE did not match the MTA fare increase, the additional revenue would go to the MTA, as opposed to back to support NICE service," NICE said in a statement.

NICE has said it will use the additional fare revenue to "increase and enhance both the quantity and quality of bus service."

Tri-State Transportation Campaign associate director Ryan Lynch commended NICE for its plan, and for other recent and planned improvements, including a forthcoming bus arrival tracking system. But he said there have also been disappointments for riders, including cuts to service last year and buses that are not accessible for people with disabilities.

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