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NICE move: Critical Saturday bus service restored

County Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) said the central-Nassau line, which shuttles between 200 to 400 Saturday commuters, is critical for many residents.

Legis. Arnold Drucker announces restoration of Saturday NICE

Legis. Arnold Drucker announces restoration of Saturday NICE Bus service on one line. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

For the first time in two years, Saturday service will be restored on a key Nassau bus line that connects hundreds of middle-class families to their jobs, homes and health care needs.

An increase in county and state funding will allow the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, to resume Saturday service on the N78/79 route, officials announced Friday. Sunday service on the line will remain shuttered, officials said.

County Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) said the central-Nassau line, which shuttles between 200 to 400 Saturday commuters, is critical for many residents, including a large number of seniors who rely on it to get to the grocery store, doctor's office and their jobs.

"This particular bus line is not just a lifeline for workers, it is also a method of reaching other outlying areas," Drucker said at a news conference in Plainview aboard the NICE bus as he was surrounded by dozens of commuters.

The route begins at the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road station and continues through Plainview, Old Bethpage, Woodbury and Syosset, and connects with another bus that takes riders to the Walt Whitman Shops in South Huntington.

NICE and the administration of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano first proposed eliminating 10 routes with low ridership — including the N78/79 and lines in Elmont, Rockville Centre and Freeport — in the spring of 2017, citing a lack of funding.

A slight increase in state funding allowed the county to preserve weekday service on N78/79 lines, which is used by roughly 1,200 straphangers Monday through Friday, but not enough to keep the route operating on weekends, said NICE Bus chief executive Jack Khzouz.

But demand for the line has grown since 2017, Khzouz said, with the opening last year of Country Pointe Plainview, a 143-acre gated community with 660 units on Old Country Road. 

"Bus routes are fluid, living, breathing things that can morph over time," said Khzouz, who added that restoring Saturday service will cost about $150,000 per year.

Jon Greenfield, who owns the ShopRite on Old Country Road in Plainview, said a handful of employees who relied on the line to get to work ended up quitting because of an inability to get to the store on weekends.

"The weekends are our busiest days," said Greenfield, who plans to increase the hours of many workers on the Saturday shift. "And we need people on these days."

Quran Jackson, 40, of Mastic, an assistant manager at ShopRite, said the lack of Saturday bus service forced him to take an Uber from the Hicksville LIRR station, at a cost of $10 to $15 each way. "That's not cheap," Jackson said. "It's a lot of money to me."

Lervin Delcid, 29, of Brentwood agreed. Delcid, a produce manager at the grocery store, who also relies on ride hailing to get to work on weekends, would rather spend his hard-earned cash on his newborn son.

"This money adds up," Delcid said. "It's money I could be using on diapers and formula."

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