Students, lawmakers and public transportation activists joined forces Thursday morning at Nassau Community College in Garden City, urging county officials to prevent the proposed elimination of some bus lines, including the n45 and n51, which serve the college’s campus.
Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE, initially proposed eliminating 10 bus lines, which serve about 5,000 riders, but last week announced it would continue service on the n19, n57 and n78/79 — routes with high ridership — as ongoing negotiations trended toward restoring the funding cuts.
At the rally organized by the Manhattan-based NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, James Rooney, a biology major at NCC who commutes by NICE from his Levittown home, said he would be in a tough spot if a round of bus route cuts takes effect next week.
One of the bus lines Rooney uses — the n51 — is slated to be axed and he said he would have to rely heavily on his parents to give him rides if the line were eliminated. Or, he mused, contend with a two-hour walk to school.
“The bus is usually my only way to get home some days,” said Rooney, 19. “Without the bus, it would put a lot of unneeded stress on my parents.”
Andy Kraus, a NICE spokesman, said the two lines servicing the community college carry about 200 riders daily — including riders who don’t use the college stop — and four other bus lines that aren’t on the chopping block also stop there.
“NICE regrets that its riders will be impacted,” Kraus said.
The agency, which has a $6.8 million deficit, changed its mind about cutting weekend service this Sunday on the n1 line in Hempstead Town after getting “positive indications” that bus subsidies would grow in the proposed state budget, officials said Wednesday. The n1 will now operate on a scaled-back schedule, they said.
Nassau and state lawmakers are hoping to strike a deal that could potentially reinstate some of the service that is scheduled to be cut Sunday. But the clock is ticking.
Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview), who last week rode the bus to call attention to the issue, said cutting the bus lines would cause “devastation” to students who are without cars and use the buses to not only get to school, but also to jobs, and to access child care.
“The bus service is paramount, it’s instrumental and it cannot be cut back,” said Drucker, who was a trustee on the college’s board for four years.
Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), who is running for county executive, said the county has several reoccurring revenue streams that could be tapped, including $12 million in traffic violation fees and a surplus of $6.5 million in sales tax revenue.
“To me this is really a matter of economic development; if students can’t get to school, how are they going to get to that internship that’s going to lead to that job, that’s going to allow them to buy a house and start a family?” Curran said.
Connie Petrucci, a spokeswoman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said in a statement: “It appears the state is poised to provide additional funding and the county executive has contacted NIFA [Nassau County Interim Finance Authority] to discuss restoring bus routes with state and county funds.”
A spokeswoman for NCC did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Michael Hilt, 20, from Elmont, said he and “plenty of other students” commute by bus to class and would be hurt if the lines are eliminated.
“I do homework on my way home,” said Hilt, the elected student representative on the NCC board of trustees. “When I think about the bus, I think about how people won’t be able to advance themselves.”