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Survey: Bus riders an important voting bloc

Bus riders in Nassau County are an important, but often overlooked, voting bloc, according to a new survey by a transit advocacy group.

The report by the Long Island Bus Riders Union found that of 284 Nassau Inter County Express bus riders surveyed, 55 percent said they had voted during the past two years. Of those, 69 percent said public transportation was "the most important issue" for them during an election.

Among those surveyed, 58 percent said they planned to vote in November, while 28 percent said they would not, with 14 percent unsure.

Riders Union founder Charlene Obernauer said the figures contradict a long-held perception by some candidates that bus riders don't vote.

"We always knew that not to be true, but we never had the concrete data to point to," said Obernauer, who noted the report also dispels the belief that most Nassau bus riders live in New York City. Of those surveyed, 77 percent said they were Long Island residents.

Obernauer said she hoped the report would spur candidates to become better advocates for the county bus system, including by riding buses, visiting terminals and attending regular Transit Committee meetings.

"Despite bus riders' high levels of turnout during the elections and their passion for reliable public transportation, bus riders or their issues are rarely a topic of discussion during Long Island electoral campaigns," the report said.

In an email, Democratic County Executive candidate Thomas Suozzi said, "We need to make sure that bus riders . . . are receiving the services they need."

Brian Nevin, spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said in a statement he agreed that "transportation is important for riders and our economy."

In 2011, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would cut more than half of Nassau bus routes unless the county met its financial obligation. Mangano turned the system over to Veolia Transportation, which added service on some routes and cut service on others.

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