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Sen. Jack Martins: Proposed Uber charge should go to NICE Bus

Passengers use a NICE bus on Dec. 8,

Passengers use a NICE bus on Dec. 8, 2016, at Meacham Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

A state lawmaker wants to earmark a proposed surcharge on Uber rides in Nassau to help fund the county’s ailing transit system.

The State Legislature is considering convening a special session this month that could include acting on a proposal to legalize ride-sharing services like Uber statewide and add on a 50 cent surcharge per ride.

Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) wants any such bill to commit revenue raised in Nassau County from the surcharge to NICE Bus, which is facing a deficit next year that could be as large as $12 million.

The revenue could help prevent widespread service cuts proposed by the Nassau Inter-County Express.

The state already charges a 50 cent fee for taxi trips in the state, with the revenue going to help fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Martins suggested a similar fee for ride-sharing services would go further if dedicated to municipal transit systems, including NICE and Suffolk County Transit buses.

“Funds raised in Nassau County to support mass transit should be reinvested entirely in Nassau County mass transit,” said Martins, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee. “NICE Bus is the only north-south mass transit link in Nassau County and serves nearly 100,000 a day, most of whom have no other means of transportation. In light of recent proposed cuts, this permanent, recurring revenue would be invaluable to maintaining current service and expanding it in the future.”

NICE already was facing a massive deficit because of growing labor costs before County Executive Edward Mangano earlier this month reduced the county’s subsidy to the transit system by $3.6 million — part of $36 million in cuts requested by the county’s interim finance board.

To help address its funding shortfall, NICE proposed a series of service cuts that would have taken effect next month.

Nassau’s bus transit committee voted to reject the proposed reductions earlier this month, but NICE officials have said that, barring an injection of new funding, scaling back service could be inevitable.

Although service cuts typically target routes with low ridership, NICE officials have said, because of the size of their budget hole, even some busier routes could be reduced.

On Thursday, county spokeswoman Connie Petrucci said Mangano’s administration “looks forward to reviewing” Martins’ proposal.

Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) said she would look to support Martins’ plan if it “can prevent routes from being eliminated in the short term, and provide recurring revenue to support our buses down the road.”

Transit advocates long have criticized county and state lawmakers for inadequate and inconsistent funding for local bus systems, which rely heavily on government subsidies. Past proposals for dedicated revenue streams — including from a share of the MTA’s payroll mobility tax — so far have failed to gain any traction.

“The essential ingredient for planning and executing good reliable transit that helps build community is predictable, dedicated funding,” said NICE chief executive officer Michael Setzer, who thanked Martins for his “commitment to our passengers.”


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