Suffolk bus riders will likely see their first systemwide fare increase in two decades this spring, after county lawmakers approved a plan to hike the cost of a ride on most lines by one-third.
In another change for Suffolk County Transit, the system has cut the number of companies operating its buses in half, resulting in some job losses.
Under a plan unanimously approved in December by the county legislature, fares will climb from $1.50 to $2 on most routes.
On the S92 and 10C, which already saw fares increase to $2 last year to fund summer Sunday service, the new fare will be $2.25. Student and senior fares will also go up by 25 cents.
The increase comes as Suffolk looks to increase fare revenue by $1 million this year to cover higher operating, labor and fuel costs. County officials expect the increase to take effect in May after a public hearing, which has not been scheduled.
Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said 20 years "is a very long time to go without a fare increase.
"We are doing our best to keep it low," said Schneiderman, chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee.
Lawmakers, he said, are "sensitive to the economic climate we're in and the struggle for working people to make ends meet."
"I still think it's the best bargain around," said Dorothy O'Sullivan, of Selden, who rides for two hours on three buses, three days a week, to get to medical appointments in Huntington. "It's certainly a lot cheaper than driving."
Ryan Lynch, of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit that pushes car alternatives, said he'd prefer that the fare hikes be phased in over several years. But he said Suffolk has done a "pretty decent job" of funding its bus system with little outside support.
In another effort to trim costs, the county recently put its bus operating contracts up to bid and reduced the number of subcontractors from six to three.
Suffolk Transportation picked up all but eight of those drivers.
Another operator, County Motor Coach, lost its contract, and two others, Hampton Jitney and Sunrise Coach, have consolidated as Twin Forks Transit.
Officials at CBS and Suffolk Transportation did not return calls for comment.
Driver Joseph Cannizzaro found out he was losing his job of 22 years a few days before Christmas.
"I made a promise to myself that I wasn't going to let it affect my holidays, and that I would worry about it after the end of the year," said Cannizarro, 58, of Port Jefferson Station. "And that time is here. So it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to do."