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Change to bus stops may affect LI transit riders

A NICE bus heads down the Hempstead Turnpike

A NICE bus heads down the Hempstead Turnpike near Meacham Avenue in Elmont in 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Transit operators in Nassau and Suffolk are both considering changes that could affect when and where riders catch a bus in their respective counties.

Officials with the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, announced plans on Thursday to eliminate some bus stops on its busiest line, the n6, in order to reduce travel times on the route.

NICE Bus Chief Executive Officer Jack Khzouz on Thursday announced the plan to “rebalance” bus stops along the n6 route, which runs between Hempstead and Jamaica, Queens. With some bus stops spaced just 500 feet apart, Khzouz said buses along the route spend much of their time at stops, often only picking up or dropping off a small number of passengers.

“Obviously, that doesn’t make for a very efficient system, when stops are stacked like that on top of each other,” Khzouz said. “The key is to make it as convenient to passengers as possible. There is a trade-off a little bit. Speeding up vehicles may mean eliminating a stop that someone is used to standing at.”

Khzouz said once the route is streamlined, some riders would have to walk up to 300 feet farther to catch a bus, but he expects the change would be worth the inconvenience. Since NICE began testing a similar system on its n40/n41 route — eliminating 12 total stops — travel times have been reduced by about 9%.

“We’ll take the lessons that we learn on the n6 and possibly go to the next route,” Khzouz said. “This is a multiyear process. Our hope is to pick up speed with this type of thinking.”

Frederick Wells, a NICE Bus user and member of the Long Island Bus Riders Union advocacy group, said the trend toward consolidating bus stops — as the MTA was also looking to do with some routes in Queens — could hit some riders particularly hard.

“That’s not going to always work, because, number one, you have senior citizens who may live on a bus route and can’t walk so far,” said Wells, 43, of Laurelton, Queens. “If they have to walk an extra block, it’s like, ‘I can’t do it.’ ”

NICE officials said they would closely study all the stops on the n6 to observe who got on and off before determining what stops to eliminate.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk Legislature is set to vote next week on a bill to use $150,000 in state and federal funding to commission a study that will review the timetables on Suffolk County Transit’s 41 different routes.

“Its something that’s been needed for many years — really, decades. Many of the routes in Suffolk County have not been looked at carefully in as much as 30 years, despite changes in land use, changes in population, and changes in travel patterns,” said Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack), who chairs the legislature’s transportation working group.

While the ultimate goal, Fleming said, would be to increase service on some routes, she acknowledged that such changes may not be possible anytime soon because of funding limitations. But, Fleming said, the study’s findings will help the county set priorities for its transit system in the future.

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