Transit advocates Monday called on Nassau to increase its “paltry” subsidy for its bus system as part of its 2014 county operating budget.
At a news conference in the County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, members of several business and policy groups asked lawmakers to restore some of the funding that was pulled from the system when the county privatized its bus system in January 2012.
Currently, the county contributes $2.6 million annually to the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) Bus, which is operated by Veolia Transportation and has an annual budget of $113 million.
“For a long time, Nassau County was able to get away with this kind of underfunding, but it seems that the lack of money is catching up with the bus system now,” Ryan Lynch, associate director of the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said. “We think NICE is doing a good job with the money they have, but their hands are tied.”
Lynch pointed to falling ridership since 2011 and NICE survey results showing lower customer satisfaction as compared to last year as proof that the system needs more money. NICE cut service on several routes three months after taking over the system to close a $7.3-million budget gap.
With an additional $8 million in revenue because of increased state aid and a fare increase, NICE restored some of the cuts and made other service improvements this year.
But several civic and business groups, including the Long Island Business Council, said further service improvements will help boost Nassau’s economy.
“I have employees who would use the bus system, but they can’t, so they walk,” David Sabatino, owner of Sip This Coffeehouse in Valley Stream, said. “This help would improve the bus system and improve my business.”