Civic groups opposed to Nassau County's plan to turn over its bus system to a private operator have scheduled a "people's hearing" next week where bus riders can speak their minds.
Monday, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano said the County Legislature will hold a hearing after Mangano finalizes the contract with the operator, Veolia Transportation of Lombard, Ill. Mangano announced in June that his office had chosen Veolia to take over the county bus system in January.
Civic groups faulted the county's timing. "We're operating in darkness now," said Ryan Lynch of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, one group organizing the event. "The fact that we're shifting into a whole different system in four months and we don't know what that system looks like is definitely disconcerting."
Lynch said riders who oppose the privatization of the bus system's operations are concerned that Veolia will raise fares and cut service. Veolia has said it will do neither in the first year.
The county bus system has been operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for nearly 40 years. But Nassau withdrew from the arrangement earlier this year because of a funding dispute with the MTA, which said maintaining existing service would require $26 million more than the $9.1 million that the county was contributing.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the county expects to complete a contract with Veolia next month. It would likely go before the County Legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority for their consideration in October, he said.
The civic groups' hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Ethical Humanist Society, 38 Old Country Rd. in Garden City. Lynch said he has invited Mangano and county lawmakers.
Also helping organize the event are Long Island Jobs with Justice, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, New York Communities for Change, Vision Long Island and the Long Island Unitarian Universalist Fund.