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NICE bus riders seek more MetroCard machines

This is a photo illustration of a metrocard

This is a photo illustration of a metrocard being inserted into a fare box on a NICE bus at the Rosa Parks Transit center in Hempstead on Jan. 3, 2012. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Some NICE bus riders have raised concerns about the limited availability of MetroCards in Nassau, but the MTA says it won't be providing new vending machines to sell the cards in the county.

The issue came up at a recent meeting of the Long Island Bus Riders Union, when union member Richard Clolery complained that he had to take a bus to Queens just to be able to buy a MetroCard from a vending machine, because Nassau's only machines, in the Rosa Parks Transit Center in Hempstead, were out of order.

"If I was a business person, I would make sure every major Long Island Rail Road station had a working MetroCard vending machine," Clolery said.

Clolery and other bus advocates said they would like to see MetroCard vending machines installed in other major bus hubs, including the Mineola Intermodal Center, the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road station, and Roosevelt Field mall.

Nassau Inter-County Express spokesman Jack Kzhous said at the meeting that NICE officials had brought the issue to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns and maintains the machines, "but they're just not willing to invest in that and I don't blame them at this point."

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz confirmed that the agency does not have any extra MetroCard vending machines, which cost about $100,000 each, and has no plans to install more in Nassau because it plans to phase out the MetroCard over the next several years and replace it with a new fare-payment system.

Ortiz encouraged Nassau bus riders to take advantage of the MTA's EasyPay MetroCard program, which automatically refills MetroCards that customers link to a credit card or bank account.

Riders Union spokeswoman Anita Halasz said the lack of places to buy MetroCards in Nassau has long been "a really serious problem." She noted that her group has put together and regularly distributes pamphlets listing stores in Nassau that sell MetroCards and which routes are nearest each of the stores.

NICE chief executive Mike Setzer said he hopes the agency's forthcoming mobile application, which will allow customers to pay fares using their smartphones, will be an alternative to the MetroCard for many riders. The application is expected to begin its testing phase next month, and be available for all users this summer.

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