A Nassau lawmaker stepped aboard a Nassau bus Tuesday to meet some of the 5,000 riders who would be impacted by deep NICE service cuts planned next month.
Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) rode two n78/79 buses with staff members, advocates and journalists to shed light on the proposed cuts, which would take effect April 9.
“The purpose here today is to put faces behind that struggle — to show the Mangano administration, show NICE Bus and show Albany that these are real people that face devastating cuts,” Drucker said Tuesday, just before swiping his MetroCard onboard an n78 bus departing the Hicksville LIRR station.
Although that bus was largely empty, Drucker later transferred at Plainview to a standing-room-only n79, where his vow to “make sure your voices are heard” was met with rousing applause by riders.
Among them was Sherril Fraser, whose commute from her Brooklyn home to her housekeeping job in Old Bethpage takes about four hours each way and includes rides on two buses, a subway and the Long Island Rail Road. “If I had to take a taxi, do you know how much [it would cost] to get to there?” Fraser asked. “It’s too much.”
Other riders complained to Drucker about the bus being late too often and implored him to get the county to keep the n78/79 — among 10 routes on the chopping block — running at least during the morning and evening rush hours.
Patent attorney George Kaplan, who lives in Manhattan and takes the bus to his job in Woodbury daily, was celebrating his 65th birthday, and asked Drucker to save the route as a gift to him.
“I’m eligible for a half-fare just in time for them to cut the route,” Kaplan said.
NICE is proposing to eliminate the n19, n36, n45, n47, n51, n57, n78/79, Rockville Centre Community Shuttle and Freeport Community Shuttle.
On Monday, state and county lawmakers revealed they are working on a proposal that could generate more than $6 million in new revenue for NICE, which faces a $6.8 million deficit. The plan would include the state and county both providing $1.5 million, and the state separately raising its annual non-Metropolitan Transportation Authority transit operating assistance to downstate counties by $10 million — about a third of which could go to Nassau.
State and NICE officials have said that with new revenue, they would prioritize keeping the endangered routes with the highest ridership, including the n78/79.
Drucker said the county should come up with a plan to keep all the routes, and suggested earmarking a portion of better-than-expected county sales tax revenue to the bus system. He said the concern over the impending cuts was apparent among the bus riders he met Tuesday.
“I see the looks on their faces,” Drucker said. “They’re worried. We can’t allow that to happen. We have to find a way to get the money to save the bus routes.”
Republican Nassau Legis. Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore), who lobbied state lawmakers in Albany last week for increased transit aid, commended Drucker for straphanging with county bus riders.
“I think that’s wonderful that he did that,” Rhoads said. “Busing shouldn’t be a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It’s a county issue. It’s something we should be working together on.”