The program aims to reduce air pollution on the North Shore by promoting public transportation to local students. Credit: Newsday

A pair of youth climate activists from Port Washington recently helped create and launch a program that aims to reduce air pollution on Nassau County’s North Shore by promoting public transportation to local students.

Paul D. Schreiber High School seniors Harry Germain, 18, and Colby Kugel, 17, worked with Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE, on a program that gives Port Washington students 10 free bus rides each.

The initiative, which is open to the approximately 2,800 students enrolled in the district's middle and high schools, is designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by taking cars off the road.

“The Bus is for Us” program launched this month ahead of the April 22 celebration of Earth Day, a global movement meant to raise awareness about issues affecting the environment.

“We’re trying to change the habits of these kids,” Germain said. “When they want a ride somewhere, they ask their parents 'Can you take me here?' That results in so many separate cars on the road.”

Kugel said the idea was born after he and Germain attended a youth climate summit the Port Washington-based environmental group Residents Forward hosted. Both are members of the nonprofit's youth action group.

At the summit, Kugel and Germain collaborated with Erika Richards, NICE's director of marketing and communications, to brainstorm the initiative.

“A full bus takes 60 riders off the road and we estimate it takes at least 30 cars off of Long Island’s roads. This is just one of the ways we can promote our service and turn on young people to using it,” Richards said in an interview. 

Resident Forward Executive Director Patricia Class said the idea was to “demystify and destigmatize riding the NICE bus around town.”

Class also pointed to traffic volume around local schools and how the students thought “this may alleviate some of that.”

Organizers said students should download NICE’s app and follow the prompts to sign up for the program. Once an account is created, NICE will add 10 free tickets into the person’s account within a day.

Apart from the program, students traveling to and from school pay $2.25 for a regular student fare and a standard fare is $2.90, according to NICE.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates a typical passenger vehicle — averaging 22.2 miles per gallon of gas and driving around 11,500 miles per year — emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

This generation is "very much aware of the issues and challenges with respect to climate change” and are not shying away from finding solutions, said Kugel’s mother, Cynthia Litman, 49.

The Port Washington resident noted that while the transportation program can give students a sense of independence, it's up to parents to have discussions about “situational awareness” with their children before deciding on using public transportation.

Michael Hynes, Port Washington's schools superintendent, said in a statement that “the environment, reducing our carbon footprint, and making sure our students have access to public transportation can have positive impacts on our community.” 

Of the program, he added that the district's students “consistently prove themselves to be innovative and deeply invested in finding solutions to complex societal issues.”

A pair of youth climate activists from Port Washington recently helped create and launch a program that aims to reduce air pollution on Nassau County’s North Shore by promoting public transportation to local students.

Paul D. Schreiber High School seniors Harry Germain, 18, and Colby Kugel, 17, worked with Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE, on a program that gives Port Washington students 10 free bus rides each.

The initiative, which is open to the approximately 2,800 students enrolled in the district's middle and high schools, is designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by taking cars off the road.

“The Bus is for Us” program launched this month ahead of the April 22 celebration of Earth Day, a global movement meant to raise awareness about issues affecting the environment.

Free student bus rides

  • Two Port Washington students teamed with Nassau Inter-County Express to create a program that gives local students 10 free bus rides.
  • “The Bus is for Us” program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The program launched this month ahead of the April 22 celebration of Earth Day.

“We’re trying to change the habits of these kids,” Germain said. “When they want a ride somewhere, they ask their parents 'Can you take me here?' That results in so many separate cars on the road.”

Kugel said the idea was born after he and Germain attended a youth climate summit the Port Washington-based environmental group Residents Forward hosted. Both are members of the nonprofit's youth action group.

At the summit, Kugel and Germain collaborated with Erika Richards, NICE's director of marketing and communications, to brainstorm the initiative.

“A full bus takes 60 riders off the road and we estimate it takes at least 30 cars off of Long Island’s roads. This is just one of the ways we can promote our service and turn on young people to using it,” Richards said in an interview. 

Resident Forward Executive Director Patricia Class said the idea was to “demystify and destigmatize riding the NICE bus around town.”

Class also pointed to traffic volume around local schools and how the students thought “this may alleviate some of that.”

Organizers said students should download NICE’s app and follow the prompts to sign up for the program. Once an account is created, NICE will add 10 free tickets into the person’s account within a day.

Apart from the program, students traveling to and from school pay $2.25 for a regular student fare and a standard fare is $2.90, according to NICE.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates a typical passenger vehicle — averaging 22.2 miles per gallon of gas and driving around 11,500 miles per year — emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

This generation is "very much aware of the issues and challenges with respect to climate change” and are not shying away from finding solutions, said Kugel’s mother, Cynthia Litman, 49.

The Port Washington resident noted that while the transportation program can give students a sense of independence, it's up to parents to have discussions about “situational awareness” with their children before deciding on using public transportation.

Michael Hynes, Port Washington's schools superintendent, said in a statement that “the environment, reducing our carbon footprint, and making sure our students have access to public transportation can have positive impacts on our community.” 

Of the program, he added that the district's students “consistently prove themselves to be innovative and deeply invested in finding solutions to complex societal issues.”

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