Some Nassau bus riders may soon be able to decide when their bus will arrive, where it will pick them up and where it will drop them off.
On July 23, the Nassau Inter-County Express — or NICE — Bus will roll out its new on-demand, shared-ride service, known as Link, in a designated test area that includes parts of East Meadow, Merrick and Bellmore. Those communities lost regular bus service in recent years because of budget cuts.
The “Uber-like” service, as NICE officials have called it, is the first of its kind in the region. It will allow customers to order up a ride through NICE's GoMobile app, choose a pickup location and destination anywhere in the service area, and a pickup time. The app will then propose an itinerary, including how long the trip will take and the time of pickup. If a passenger accepts, the app collects $4.50, a price point NICE officials said is more than a bus fare but less than a taxi ride.
Different from the typical 40-foot-long buses, the NICE Link service will utilize smaller, van-like buses, known as “cutaways,” that will seat 14 passengers and have space for three wheelchair users. NICE officials said the system’s accessibility could also make it an attractive option for some users of its paratransit system, Able-Ride, because it does not require reservations to be made a day in advance.
“NICE Link represents a lighter-weight, less expensive way to keep, or in this case reintroduce, service in areas where demand is light and disbursed and therefore may not justify fixed route bus service on a fixed schedule,” said NICE CEO Michael Setzer.
The service will operate Monday to Friday during peak commuting times: 6:30-9:30 a.m. and 2:30-7 p.m. Depending on how successful it is, Setzer said the program could be expanded. Initially, it will be limited to the Meadowbrook Parkway to the west, Wantagh Parkway to the east, Hempstead Turnpike to the north and Merrick Road to the south. It will also transport riders to and from the Freeport Long Island Rail Road station.
"This is an area which because of the funding shortfall last spring lost some service, but where NICE believes there is demand for alternate service," Setzer said.
Among those who lost their bus route in recent years is Ronald Burns, 70, of East Meadow, who used to rely on the now-defunct N51 to get him to the Merrick LIRR station.
"I was devastated," Burns said of the 2016 elimination of the route. "I used to catch it on the corner and it would take me right to Merrick Station. It was a pleasure."
Although Burns said the new Link service has some drawbacks — including that it won't accept the MetroCard and only runs during certain hours — he's "all for it."