Newsday's Alfonso Castillo speaks to students at Five Towns College about current bus transportation challenges.  Credit: Newsday/James Carbone

Yasmill Jimenez’ two-and-a-half-hour transit journey between her home in the Bronx and Five Towns College in Dix Hills relies on the S23 bus line, which links the campus to the Wyandanch Long Island Rail Road station.

Without it, the 17-year-old student said an already trying commute would be that much more difficult.

“I don’t know how I’d get to school,” Jimenez said. “We’d have to figure something completely different out.”

Jimenez was relieved to learn that the county’s “final redesign” of its bus system includes significant changes from a draft plan released in March that would have curtailed bus service to Five Towns College, and to other key destinations throughout the county.

The plan, shared with Newsday by Suffolk County officials Monday, restores other routes pegged for elimination in the original proposal, but still leaves fewer bus lines than riders have now.

The plan is the product of Suffolk's “Reimagine Transit” initiative, which began in 2020 and is funded through a $350,000 grant from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council. Project officials say they expect the streamlined bus network to debut next October, following months of outreach efforts to riders.

Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a nonprofit activist group, said that while she does believe Suffolk County Transit is “in need of an overhaul,” it should have been an “expansion, not a reduction.

“We know this plan is horrible. Basically, this is going to make a lot of people stranded,” Tyson said. “They’re going to lose their jobs and not be able to get to health care services.”

In a statement, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the overhaul creates a transit system “that values peoples' time, and gets them to more places throughout the County faster.”

“With longer operating hours, timed connections, and more high-frequency service, the new Suffolk Transit system will be far more useful for residents, workers, and visitors,” Bellone added.

The new plan restores service on what is now the S23 route, serving Babylon, Wyandanch, the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington, and Five Towns College in Dix Hills. The S62 bus route between Lake Grove and Riverhead, is also back, as is bus service to Brookhaven Town Hall, and a summer bus route serving Robert Moses State Park.

“These were places that were obviously really important to riders, and certainly the riders’ experience is what this is all about,” Jonathan Keyes, director of downtown and transit oriented development for Suffolk, said in an interview Monday.

Other changes include new “on-demand” service in some East End communities, extending some routes, and increasing bus frequency on some lines to every 30 minutes.

All routes in the redesigned bus network will operate seven days a week, and will run later into the evening. Project officials said there will also be timed connections at seven locations across the county “to reduce wait times, strengthen connections to the LIRR, and get people to their destinations faster.”

County officials said the changes will add up to $20 million to the transit system’s annual operating budget of around $75 million. But officials also expect the redesigned network will increase ridership, which is approximately 6,300 daily passengers — down around 30% from pre-COVID-19 levels. County officials have said they have also received additional state and federal aid to help fund the improvements.

Even with the revisions, the redesigned bus network will have a smaller footprint than the current one, and will cut off several communities from bus service, including along the Town of Brookhaven’s North Shore. The county opted to prioritize routes with the highest ridership, so improvements will benefit more people.

 WHAT TO KNOW

  •  Suffolk County has created a "final redesign" of its transit system. The new plan restores bus service to several destinations that were cut off from it in an earlier draft plan, including Five Towns College and Brookhaven Town Hall.
  • The "Reimagine Transit" initiative aims to overhaul the 42-year-old Suffolk County Transit system, including by operating buses on popular routes more frequently, extending evening and weekend hours, and creating timed connections with different routes and with the Long Island Rail Road. 
  • The new Suffolk County Transit system, which will debut next October, includes fewer routes than it does now, and will leave some communities without bus service, including along the Town of Brookhaven's North Shore.

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