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Use of ride-sharing fees for Island transit funding proposed

Existing fees from ride-sharing services such as Uber

Existing fees from ride-sharing services such as Uber should help fund state transportation agencies, state Sen. John Brooks said Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Credit: AP / Eric Risberg

A Long Island state lawmaker is proposing to use fees from Uber and other ride-sharing services to help fund local transit.

Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) said Monday that the existing 4 percent surcharge, which now goes to the state’s general fund, would be better directed to local transit needs, including to improve Long Island Rail Road stations and to fill operating deficits for bus systems in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

According to Brooks, the legislation would generate $24 million in revenue to be shared across transportation agencies throughout the state, including in Nassau and Suffolk, where ride-sharing businesses, such as Uber and Lyft, became legal in June.

The proposal comes as Long Island’s three major public transportation providers — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Nassau Inter-County Express and Suffolk County Transit — struggle with growing costs.

The MTA needs to find $800 million to fund subway improvements. NICE officials are predicting a $2 million deficit this year. And Suffolk has asked for an increase in state aid to fund several initiatives, including expanded evening and Sunday bus hours.

“It’s one step toward solving those problems,” said Brooks, who added that new and onerous federal tax laws make his proposal all the more urgent. “We have to get smart . . . and find ways to fund government differently.”

Brooks said he aims to formally introduce the bill in the Senate this week. Assemb. Christine Pellegrino (D-Massapequa Park) is proposing an accompanying bill in her chamber.

“Public transportation aids our local economy, eases congestion on our roads, provides necessary services to our seniors and protects our environment,” Pellegrino said in a statement.

A NICE spokesman said Monday that agency officials have not yet discussed the budget shortfall with new Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s administration, “but would welcome any help whether to maintain service or even expand it.”

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