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Officials: Changes coming for Nassau, Suffolk bus systems

New NICE small buses at MTA Long Island

New NICE small buses at MTA Long Island Bus in Garden City on June 23, 2016. These buses are for the routes the Nassau Inter-County Express plans to use again. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Some big changes are coming soon to Long Island’s two major public bus systems.

In Nassau, the second phase of the restoration of several NICE Bus routes that were previously eliminated begins Monday. Meanwhile, in Suffolk a pair of public hearings are scheduled this week ahead of the county’s plan to axe nine routes next month.

Facing a $7.5 million deficit, the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE, in January eliminated 11 routes, but just weeks later announced a plan to restore most of the reduced service using a boost in county funding and cost-conscious innovations like “community shuttles,” reservation-based rides and smaller buses.

“Designing service with equipment that maximizes efficiency is an important step toward ensuring that less utilized routes are sustainable and meeting the demands of heavily travelled routes,” NICE Chief Executive Officer Mike Setzer said in a statement. “It makes sense that some smaller routes have smaller, more efficient and flexible equipment and some others have larger equipment.”

Following the restoration of some routes in June, more service returns Monday, including the return of the n51 between Roosevelt Field and Merrick, in time to serve Nassau Community College students returning for the fall semester.

In Elmont, where the n2 and n8 were discontinued in January, NICE is introducing its new “Elmont Flexi” service — a shuttle making select stops to and from Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream. Riders can be picked up or dropped off at additional stops by making reservations by phone two hours in advance.

The Freeport Community Shuttle and the Wantagh-Hicksville Community Shuttle also make their debut Monday, operating every 30 minutes during peak hours and carrying riders previously served by the eliminated n62 and n73 routes.

While bus riders in Nassau are preparing to get some routes back, riders in Suffolk are preparing to lose some. Last month, Suffolk released details of its plan to eliminate nine routes in order to save $4 million.

The county will hold public hearings next week on the cuts: Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Evans K. Griffing Building in Riverhead; and Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the W. H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge.

In a presentation earlier this week to the Suffolk Legislature, Deputy Public Works Commissioner Darnell Tyson said one of the goals of the hearings is to gather input from Suffolk County Transit riders.

“The point is to give the public an opportunity to come out and talk about the locales that are important so that we can figure out how to use that information once funding becomes available,” Tyson said.

Despite the cuts, Tyson said Suffolk is moving ahead with several initiatives to improve bus service, including the purchase of smaller, more efficient buses and the development of a mobile app to give riders real-time arrival information.

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