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Rally supports $10M state aid proposal for Suffolk bus system

Ryan Lunch, Associate Director of Tri-State Transportation Commission,

Ryan Lunch, Associate Director of Tri-State Transportation Commission, stands with bus advocates as he calls for additional state funding for Suffolk County Transit, during a press conference in Hauppauge. Credit: Newsday / Ed Betz

Public transportation advocates and elected officials yesterdaybacked a bid for $10 million in new state aid for Suffolk County's bus system, which they say has long been denied its fair share.

At a Hauppauge rally, representatives from about 100 groups said the additional funding is sorely needed to expand Suffolk County Transit's new Sunday service, extend evening hours and boost Suffolk County Accessible Transit, which serves disabled riders.

"Everybody's been saying, 'Please, I've got to get to work on Sunday,' or, 'It doesn't run late enough for me to get to work in my job,' " said Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has led efforts in the legislature to expand the service.

"We look at what Nassau gets from the state versus what we get, and it's clearly not fair," he said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone made a similar point in a March 10 letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo requesting a $10 million, or nearly 50 percent, boost in state transit aid.

Suffolk puts $29 million in county tax dollars annually into the system and gets about $22 million from the state.

Nassau gets more than twice that amount in state funding, $57 million, while contributing $2.6 million in county tax subsidies to its Nassau Inter-County Express system.

Cuomo's office said last week it was reviewing Bellone's request.

Ryan Lynch, associate director of the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which organized the rally, noted that with just $1.1 million in new aid last year, Suffolk added -- for the first time -- year-round Sunday service on 10 routes.

Schneiderman said he would like to see any additional transit funds go to adding Sunday service on another 14 routes, including bus lines serving the South Shore Mall in Bay Shore and communities in Port Jefferson.

Aaron Watkins-Lopez, a Suffolk County Transit user and organizer with the nonprofit Long Island Bus Riders Union, said expanded service is needed so customers "aren't constantly worried that we can't get to the supermarket, we'll be late for work or we'll be stranded for hours because our bus never arrived."

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