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NICE to expand interval-based bus schedule, new CEO says

A pilot program in which buses arrive at regular intervals, rather than at a set time, has "worked so well" that the system is rolling out to more routes, Jack Khzouz told the Nassau's Bus Transit Committee.

CEO Jack Khzouz spoke about expanding a pilot program for NICE bus schedules at Thursday's meeting of the Nassau Bus Transit Committee in Garden City. He said the program in which buses arrive at regular intervals, rather than at a set time, has "worked so well" that the scheduling system is rolling out to more routes. (Credit: Newsday / Alfonso Castillo)

Schedules will soon become a thing of the past for many Nassau bus riders, NICE’s new chief said Thursday.

At a meeting of Nassau’s Bus Transit Committee, Jack Khzouz, who last month was appointed the new CEO of Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE, announced plans to expand a pilot program that did away with published timetables for some routes and replaced them with an interval-based scheduling system.

Under the subway-inspired “headway management system,” riders can expect a bus to arrive at regular intervals, rather than at a set time. NICE teams, positioned throughout the system, ensure that the buses adhere to the intervals, including by holding and releasing buses to prevent “bunching” and long gaps between buses, Khzouz said.

NICE has been testing the approach on its n40/n41 route, which runs between Mineola and Freeport, since March and recently expanded the program to its n31/32 route, which runs between Hempstead and Far Rockaway.

“Instead of having a paper schedule that tells a customer that we stop at Main Street at 9:10 and at Maple at 9:20 ... you know that, if you’re on the 40/41 or the 31/32, your bus will be at your location in 15 minutes or less during the peak period,” Khzouz said.

At the Garden City meeting Thursday, Khzouz said the new system had “worked so well” on the two routes that the agency planned to roll out interval-based scheduling on its two busiest routes, the n6, which runs between Hempstead and Jamaica, Queens, and the n4, which runs between Freeport and Jamaica, during the first half of 2019.

“Our goal here is, by midyear next year, 40 percent of our riders will experience headway management, instead of regular time-point management,” Khzouz said. “It’s a much better way to travel. It’s a much better customer experience.”

NICE also announced some planned improvement for its new “NiceLink” program, which provides on-demand bus service using a mobile app. Beginning in November, the service will be extended until 10 p.m., from the current 7:30 p.m. In addition, NICE is lowering the cost of the service from $4.50 to $2.75 — the price of a standard bus trip — and also will begin accepting MetroCard fares.

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