Crews are putting the final touches on the new NICE Bus system set to roll out New Year's Day when Veolia Transportation takes over, ending nearly four decades of Metropolitan Transportation Authority control.
Veolia representatives have been giving final once-overs to the buses and facilities they will be taking over, and the MTA has begun covering up its logo on vehicles with silver Mylar patches. Veolia officials will then apply new Nassau Inter County Express Bus logos on the vehicles.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in June chose Veolia to take over the bus system, which has been run by the MTA since 1973. Mangano has said that the MTA wanted too much money from Nassau to run the system, and that the Veolia partnership would save county taxpayers $32 million a year.
And so after operating buses in Nassau for 38 years, the MTA will pull its final buses into the Mitchel Field Depot in Garden City around 1:35 a.m. Sunday. When drivers return to work, they will be Veolia employees, officials said.
The first NICE Bus runs will take place shortly after midnight Sunday on the N4 and N6 lines.
"There isn't going to be any disruption. It's going to be a fairly orderly thing," said Michael Setzer, incoming chief executive of NICE Bus, who added that the only change riders may notice right away is their driver's uniform. "Other than that, my actual hope is that they don't notice any difference at all."
Routes and fares will remain the same for now, and NICE Bus will continue accepting the MetroCard and the UniTicket -- a combination Long Island Rail Road/LI Bus fare card. Veolia is also immediately reinstating the Valley Stream LIRR station stop for the N1 and also creating a new N22L route, which will bypass stops at the Roosevelt Field mall and the Mineola Intermodal Center.
Customers looking for information on the new bus system should not have any trouble finding it, officials said. The company has printed thousands of schedules that it will begin distributing immediately, and launched a new website, NICEBus.com, which includes route maps and schedules. Senior management officials from Veolia, including Setzer, will be out at key bus stops beginning Sunday morning to greet riders.
Veolia officials say bus riders may notice one important difference when most return to work after the holiday weekend on Tuesday: Their bus is more likely to be on time. MTA officials have acknowledged that a shortage of drivers and their requirement to pull some vehicles from service to undergo state safety inspections have both had an impact on service in recent months. With a full staff of drivers and a full fleet of about 300 buses, Setzer said buses should be on schedule.
"We don't have any reason to believe that everything won't pull out and operate on time," Setzer said.
When will the new NICE Bus system be in place?
Veolia Transportation officially takes over the MTA Long Island Bus system on midnight Jan. 1, but the first buses aren't scheduled to run until after 1 a.m. Veolia and the MTA say there will be no disruption in service.
Will my bus still run?
All routes and schedules will remain the same on Jan. 1. NICE Bus is adding a line, the N22L, which is a streamlined version of the N22, and also reinstating the Valley Stream LIRR stop on the N1. The Able-Ride system is also staying in tact.
Will fares be affected?
No. The base fare remains $2.25. Riders will still be able to use the MetroCard and the LIRR UniTicket, and free transfers will remain.
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