Transit advocates traveling across Long Island by bus stopped Tuesday in Stony Brook to protest Suffolk County’s plan to eliminate eight bus routes.
Members of the Long Island Bus Riders Union organized the rally near the Long Island Rail Road’s Stony Brook station to highlight the importance of preserving the routes, which will be axed next month in an effort to save the county $4 million annually. The routes include the S71, which serves Stony Brook University.
“Over 40,000 people rely on these buses every day, and cutting any service is detrimental to our county and the well-being of our residents,” said LI Bus Riders Union organizer Aaron-Watkins Lopez, who has been traveling across Long Island this week, from Jamaica to Riverhead, using only Nassau and Suffolk public buses as part of the group’s annual “Rate the Ride” event.
This year, the riders detoured off the most direct route to try several new routes recently introduced in Nassau as replacements to other routes eliminated in January, and to check out some of the routes pegged for elimination in Suffolk.
County officials say the cuts are necessary as the costs of running the system have grown, but aid from the state has not.
But Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley), who attended the rally, said the county’s solution is unacceptable, including for the typical college student who relies on Suffolk County Transit.
“What do we tell him? ‘Sorry. You’re not going to be able to graduate this year because you can’t get to school’?” Browning said. “I don’t think that’s OK.”
The protesters said the county should enact a moratorium on any cuts until after it conducts a study on bus rider demographics and how to redesign existing routes.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone, said the cuts come after “careful analysis” of the routes’ daily ridership and cost. She said the average cost to the county per ride for the affected routes is more than $32, compared to the systemwide average of about $8. In total, about 433 people use the impacted routes, or about 2 percent of Suffolk County’s 20,000 daily riders.