Nassau bus riders, transit advocates and elected officials urged lawmakers Saturday to come up with a plan to save 10 bus routes set to be eliminated in four weeks.
Standing in the frigid temperatures near the Lynbrook Long Island Rail Road station — a key stop for the endangered N36 route — about two dozen people, including Republican and Democratic state, county and local politicians, rallied against the cuts planned for April 9. The routes serve about 5,000 riders.
“We’re here with a very, very simple message,” said Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin). “And that message is now is not the time to cut bus service in Nassau County.”
Officials with Transdev, the private company that operates the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, have said the cuts are needed to fill a $6.8 million budget shortfall. They have said that deficit is a direct result of a cut in funding from the county, which owns the system. Nassau’s budget provides just $2.5 million to NICE, which has an annual operating budget of nearly $130 million.
Bus supporters have urged county and state lawmakers to come up with a long-term plan to fund NICE, including by dedicating a portion of the MTA’s payroll mobility tax or tax revenues generated from ride-sharing services like Uber to local transit.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) urged the formation of a “county-state partnership” to properly fund NICE, which he said is vital to some of Nassau’s most vulnerable residents.
“Too often, the common view of Long Island is that we are an affluent community where everyone has two cars and a white picket fence. That’s not really the case,” he said. “Whether you’re an elderly person or someone who doesn’t have a car, they need this bus route.”
In the short term, Curran said, the county should come up with a “local solution to a local problem.” She said Nassau has several pools of money to draw from to prevent the cuts, including millions in unused capital grants awarded years ago. She also said the county should consider dedicating a portion of its newly-implemented $55 “public safety fee” on traffic and parking tickets to its transit system.
Brian Nevin, spokesman for Republic County Executive Edward Mangano, said Curran voted against a county budget Mangano proposed that would have fully funded NICE. Curran said she “proudly” rejected Mangano’s budget, which included various fee increases.
East Rockaway resident Dan Caracciolo, who organized the rally, called the N36 a “lifeline to our community.”
Caracciolo, 36, noted that the route, extending from Lynbrook to Freeport, has served the area for decades.
“I can’t imagine not having the bus in my community,” he said. “This doesn’t make sense. We have to make a change.”