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Filler: In Nassau and Suffolk, reasonable bus fare hikes

A NICE bus at the Mineola depot in

A NICE bus at the Mineola depot in Mineola. (Dec. 26, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

In Nassau County, bus fares are going up, but passengers who choose to pay cash rather than using a MetroCard won’t see an increase.

In Suffolk County, disabled riders who use Suffolk County Accessible Transit will also see a hike, the first since 1994. 

In both cases, the increases are reasonable and necessary.

In 2012, Nassau turned its bus service over to private contractor Veolia after it failed to reach an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to keep running the county’s buses. Now called Nassau Inter-County Express, Nassau’s bus service is still heavily dependent on the 78 percent of riders who pay with MetroCards, and get free transfers between the MTA and NICE. When the MTA decided to increase fares from $2.25 to $2.50, Nassau’s bus system had no sensible option but to do the same. Had it not, customers transferring to MTA buses still would have had to pay the extra quarter, but the MTA, rather than NICE, would have pocketed the money, costing Nassau’s bus service about $3 million per year.

NICE’s decision to keep the $2.25 fare in place for cash customers was a wise one, and the announcement that the extra $3 million, as well as another $5 million in increased state aid, will go to service expansion is welcome.

In Suffolk County, Suffolk County Accessible Transit was created in 1994 with a fare price of $3 for riders. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $4.65 today, so an increase to $4 is more than fair.

Bus service is heavily subsidized on Long Island, and that’s fair. It’s a crucial service, and it is relied on most by residents who can least afford hefty fares. But the fare box has always been a part of the equation, and transportation advocates who fight every fare increase while constantly demanding improved service have crafted a double-barreled attack that often falls on deaf ears.

It’s reasonable to let the fares increase over time to keep pace with rising prices, even as we continue to subsidize much of the cost to ensure the service continues to exist.