Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Wednesday threw her support behind a pair of new service transit initiatives that she said represent the future of getting around the county.
Joining other county and local elected officials at the Long Island Rail Road’s Freeport station — a major transfer point for bus riders — Curran trumpeted a new, on-demand bus service just rolled out by the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, and a new interval-based scheduling system for some routes.
“The world of transportation is changing right before our eyes. You’ve got ride share. You’ve got autonomous vehicles not so far in our future,” Curran said. “So it’s really important that we are as nimble and flexible and cost-efficient as possible as we move forward here in Nassau County.”
NICE’s “Link” service, which began Monday in a designated test area that includes the Freeport LIRR station, will provide door-to-door bus service for users who request a ride through a mobile app at a cost of $4.50 a trip. Curran said riders can “think of it as a cheaper Uber.”
Working with the county, NICE devised the system as a way to restore service in some communities that have had bus routes cut in recent years.
Another change recently implemented by NICE is the replacement of a published timetable on its n40/n41 lines with a new interval-based scheduling system. Rather than arriving at a specific time at a specific stop, the buses will run at 10-minute intervals during peak hours.
NICE Chief Executive Officer Michael Setzer said, pushed by the county “to innovate and find better ways to make our dollars go just a little bit further,” NICE is aiming to “right-size” both its service levels and its vehicles. The Link system will use smaller, van-like buses, rather than large, standard buses, which are more expensive to operate.
“The 20th century was: ‘We’re going to operate a bus or a train and you be there at the stop when we say,’” Setzer said. “The 21st century version is much more about meeting your demands that you express to us via electronic means.”
Although its Link service and schedule-less bus routes are both considered pilot programs, Setzer said he expects the county to move toward a model of having robust fixed-route bus service on only its busiest lines, supplemented by on-demand service in areas with lighter ridership.
The model made sense to NICE rider Samuel Salazar, 18, of Baldwin, who attended the Freeport news conference.
“Personally, I love to go to the city. And if I was able to order up a NICE Bus ride and it drops me off at Baldwin station, it would be such a nice asset, rather than just waiting 10 or 12 minutes for the n35 bus,” Salazar said.