Nassau Legis. Carrie Solages, left, joins local residents, bus activists...

Nassau Legis. Carrie Solages, left, joins local residents, bus activists and NICE Bus officials on one of the maiden trips of the new "Elmont Flexi" service in Elmont on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Some bus riders need to plan ahead if they want to take advantage of new bus service that began operating in some Nassau communities Tuesday.

The Nassau Inter-County Express’ new “Elmont Flexi” service made its debut Tuesday, and provided an exclusive ride to Nassau Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont), his staff and local civic activists.

The new service replaces the N2 and N8 buses, which were among several routes NICE eliminated in January in a cost-cutting measure. However, unlike traditional bus routes, the new “Flexi” route, which runs between Elmont and Green Acres mall in Valley Stream, only makes certain stops if a rider calls ahead to request them two hours in advance.

Solages said that while NICE deserves credit for finding a way to restore service in Elmont and the surrounding communities, he had concerns about the new service model, including about reservations not being properly taken, causing some riders to miss their pickups, and about the potential for crowding on the new buses, which are about 35 percent smaller than standard 40-foot-long buses.

“I have concerns,” said Solages, adding that his constituents raise concerns about bus service issues more than nearly any other topic. “This shows that bus service is an indispensable need that the county has an obligation to provide.”

NICE spokesman Jack Khzouz said the agency valued the feedback of legislators and riders about the new service, which he said is still taking shape. Khzouz said the new service got off to a good start, with customers praising the smaller, more efficient vehicles, and a few “Flexi-stop” reservations being made ahead of the first runs Tuesday.

“We’re very open to adjusting the service as we need to,” said Khzouz, adding that NICE expects to regularly make changes to the route to address demand.

Bus rider Judy Sanford, who joined Solages on the ride Tuesday morning, wasn’t sold on the on-demand bus stop system. When she asked the driver why the bus bypassed Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital, she was told it was a “Flexi-stop” outside of the usual route.

“I think this is going to be very confusing for people,” Sanford said. “How do you arrange a trip to an emergency room with a two-hour notice?”

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