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Nassau surveying residents, businesses about transportation preferences

Nassau County will consider redesigning routes on its

Nassau County will consider redesigning routes on its Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, system, which here is boarding passengers at the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Nassau County is looking for ways to expand and transform its transportation system, including by considering innovative ideas like bike sharing, electronic scooters and flexible bus routes.

County officials said their new "Shared Mobility Management Plan" aims to address the changing transportation needs and preferences of residents — including those whose commutes have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort kicked off with two surveys, one for residents and one for employers, available at NassauMobility.com.

"We want to hear from a diverse cross-section of Nassau County residents, employees, students and visitors over the course of this innovative project to help shape future transportation investments," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement.

The county is working with consultant WSP USA to conduct the survey, then will use the findings to inform what steps it will take in the future. The effort will consider which communities are best-suited for various shared transportation programs, like Manhattan’s Citi Bike, Zipcars or Lime electronic scooters.

The county will consider redesigning routes on its Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, system. It could also expand the use of on-demand bus routes, like NICE’s "Elmont Flexi," which allows riders to book trips ahead of time on smaller, van-like buses. The county expects to finalize a plan by May 2022.

"Basically, what you’ll see is a kind of menu of opportunities," said Dan Baer, of WSP USA, who noted that the project also aims to address the lack of transportation options in low-income and minority communities. "We want to make sure that we’re serving all populations, all races, equally."

Baer said the effort also aims to come up with new transportation methods that are environmentally sustainable, and could generate new revenue for the county. The effort is costing the county $535,000 — 80% of which is funded through a grant from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council.

While potentially a "good first step" toward addressing the county residents’ changing transportation preferences, the county is "skipping ahead a little bit," according to Allison Blanchette, director of Long Island Streets, a nonprofit group that advocates for cyclists and pedestrians.

Blanchette noted that the effort contradicts the county’s historic reluctance toward embracing alternative transportation users, including through planning and laws that prioritize motorists.

"I don’t think we’re really addressing the culture change needed," said Blanchette, who said she is concerned that the surveys will give the county "an opportunity to back out" if they get negative feedback from those resistant to alternative transportation modes.

"I don’t think there’s any political courage at all," Blanchette said. "I think that this whole plan was written from behind the windshield of a car."

Baer said part of the initiative will include educating the public about the benefits of alternative transportation methods — some of which have become more relevant since the COVID-19 outbreak began last year.

He said the pandemic has spurred some New York City residents, who are more accustomed to transit options, to move to the suburbs. It’s also changed how, and how often, people commute to work, Baer said.

CONSIDERING ALTERNATIVES

Nassau County is working with consultant WSP USA to conduct the transportation survey, then will use the findings to inform what steps it will take in the future. The survey is available at NassauMobility.com.

“Basically, what you’ll see is a kind of menu of opportunities,” said Dan Baer, of WSP USA, who noted that the project also aims to address the lack of transportation options in low-income and minority communities.

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