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NICE Bus plans changes aimed at improving service

Commuters waiting on line about to board a

Commuters waiting on line about to board a bus at the Rosa Parks Transportation Center in Hempstead, Jan. 23, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The future of bus transit in Nassau County includes larger vehicles for the disabled and, for some riders, fewer bus stops and a route that does not run on a set schedule, NICE officials said.

At Thursday’s meeting of Nassau’s Bus Transit Committee — the body overseeing the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus — officials previewed a number of changes they say will improve service on the transit system, which is used by more than 25 million people annually.

NICE wants to use its n40/n41 route, which runs between Mineola and Freeport, as a sort of guinea pig for some of its proposed changes.

The first step, NICE chief executive Michael Setzer said, will entail “rationalizing” bus stops. Over the years, he explained, the number of stops has grown unnecessarily to an extent that only serves to slow down the ride. Starting later this month, stops will be spaced a quarter-mile from each other, reducing the total to 49, from the current 60.

“It’s sort of like your desk drawer or my desk drawer. After a while, you’ve just got to clean it out,” Setzer said. “The expectation is that we give everyone a little better ride and, secondly, we’re better able to maintain on-time performance.”

Later in the year, NICE will do away with a published timetable for the route, instead moving over to an interval-based schedule.

“It’s very much the way you use the subway in the city. You don’t look for the 7:32 subway. You go to the stop knowing, because of the signage, that it’s so many minutes away,” Setzer said.

NICE officials said they would evaluate the success of the bus stop and schedule changes on the n40/n41 before deciding whether to use similar strategies on other routes.

NICE also announced Thursday it had purchased 15 new handicapped-accessible minibuses for its Able-Ride system. The 26-foot vehicles are the largest in the fleet of 100 vehicles used for the door-to-door paratransit service and will replace some vehicles that are a decade old. NICE officials said the new vehicles will increase efficiency and improve the riding experience for disabled customers.

Also coming this summer, Setzer said, is a new on-demand, ride-sharing service known as LINK that will allow customers to use a mobile app to book a trip in real time.

LINK users would request a trip via the app, then receive a confirmation of a time and pickup location. The same vehicle would pick up and drop off other customers during its trip.

Setzer said the Uber-like service, which will use minibuses, could be a “less-expensive, more customer-responsive kind of service that will work well in places that demand isn’t heavy.”

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