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Nassau County makes pitch to save Long Island Bus

Nassau County officials said Wednesday they have made a pitch to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to save Long Island Bus, on the same day that the MTA formally proposed withdrawing $100 million in funding over the next four years.

Patrick Foye, a deputy county executive and an MTA board member representing Nassau, said Wednesday that the county has made a "new financial proposal" to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority aimed at halting the agency's plans to withdraw about $25 million a year in subsidies to LI Bus.

The system is owned by Nassau but operated by the MTA, which has said it can no longer afford to make up Nassau's funding shortfalls. The county is paying just $9.1 million of the system's $133 million budget this year.

MTA sources said that while they don't expect Nassau to come up with an additional $25 million next year, they do expect Nassau to make the MTA whole by the end of its four-year financial plan, which expires in 2014. That would amount to about $100 million - an amount that the county cannot come close to paying, a county source said.

Foye declined to release details of the county's latest proposal, but sources familiar with it said Nassau would pay an additional $1.5 million next year - restoring its subsidy to last year's level - and make "modest" increases in subsequent years.

At a Manhattan meeting Wednesday, Foye labeled the MTA's plan to pull its funding of LI Bus as "radical, fundamentally mistaken, costly and socially unjust."

"Unlike other service [that] will leave a smaller, pared-back system - but they will leave a system - this is a radical change, because these funding reductions, given Nassau County's fiscal reality, will result in the end of Long Island Bus," Foye said.

He noted that the majority of LI Bus' ridership are low-income commuters and minorities.

Several MTA board members from other New York counties said that, while they understood Nassau's economic plight, they should not be forced to subsidize Nassau's shortfalls.

MTA chairman Jay Walder agreed that it was time for Nassau to pay up. "I would not accept the view that Long Island Bus, by definition, is the MTA's problem," he said.

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