NICE Bus chief executive Michael Setzer yesterday took responsibility for long delays experienced by Able-Ride customers in early May, and told the governing board of Nassau's bus system that he has slowed down plans to combine trips for disabled riders.
Setzer, speaking at a Nassau Transit Advisory Committee meeting in Garden City, said the private bus operator was "too ambitious" in trying to quickly increase the number of passengers per hour in each Able-Ride vehicle from 1.3 to 2.
The plan, which started in May, called for passengers to share trips, but resulted in some disabled riders waiting for hours to be transported to their destinations.
"We ran too aggressively . . . and should have moved more slowly," said Setzer, who noted that the Nassau Inter County Express Bus dropped the plan and customer complaints have returned to pre-May levels.
"We have to balance productivity with our customers' needs," Setzer said. "We can't keep customers waiting."
Able-Ride vehicles are now carrying about 1.4 customers per hour, he said. The new goal is to reach about 1.7 by the end of the year.
Setzer noted other challenges to operating Able-Ride, including failing technology and buses, and the unexpected loss of many employees before Veolia Transportation took over the system from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Jan. 1.
The MTA hired all of Able-Ride's dispatchers for new jobs before the Veolia takeover, Setzer said. To temporarily fill the positions, Veolia brought in workers from its other systems around the country, he said.
After hearing of the challenges, Transit Advisory Committee Vice chairman Lawrence Blessinger Jr. told Setzer, "I tip my hat to you."