A NICE Bus and United Way of Long Island program...

A NICE Bus and United Way of Long Island program to give free MetroCards to eligible riders will continue with the United Way now administering the effort, officials said.

Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

United Way of Long Island will now oversee a partnership with Nassau Inter-County Express that provides free MetroCards to county organizations for distribution to low- and moderate-income riders, officials with both agencies said Tuesday.

Everyone Rides NICE will now be administered by United Way, which will work with 21 social service agencies to provide MetroCards to eligible riders. The announcement is set to be made Wednesday at a news conference at NICE headquarters in Garden City.

“These folks wouldn’t have the funds or other disposal income to be able to allocate to transportation in the first place,” said NICE CEO Jack Khzouz, “so whether they wanted to or not, they may not have the resources to be able to take the bus.”

Newsday previously reported that the free MetroCard program was started in 2015 by Transdev, NICE’s parent company, which partnered with United Way in 2017, using a $1.25 million grant.

The program will be run by United Way and work with colleges, nonprofits and other groups to distribute the cards, said Theresa Regnante, president and CEO of the United Way of Long Island.

Without a car, transportation on Long Island is a challenge, said Regnante, adding that about 2,500 riders use the free MetroCards.

“It’s immensely more difficult to make an appointment on time, go to the doctor, go to the dentist, go to school, take your kid, whatever it is, it’s really difficult,” Regnante said of life on Long Island without personal transportation.

Claudia Boyle, CEO of the Hispanic Counseling Center in Hempstead, said the barrier prevents people from using her facility, which provides services such as mental health and substance abuse.

“Either because they don’t have a car or if they do sometimes it’s hard for them to get from one place to another,” said Boyle, adding that the MetroCards from United Way help.

Aysha Shahid, a rising senior and premedicine major at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, has benefited from the program. Shahid, 20, who commutes from Elmhurst, Queens and takes a MTA train and two buses, learned about the program in 2021.

“I don’t have my own car and I also come from a single parent household so financially I have to budget a lot of what I do sometimes,” she said. “The bus passes they gave me some leeway so I don’t have to worry about that.”

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