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EDITORIAL: Nassau will need to pay for bus service

MTA head Jay Walder and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano met Monday, but remain at odds.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority runs Long Island Bus for Nassau, and the county pays it $9 million per year. The MTA says it's been providing another $26 million annually, and Nassau - the only suburban county with bus service run or subsidized by the MTA - must start footing the whole bill. Nassau says it can't and won't pay, but doesn't provide much justification for its stance.

The MTA's subsidy, which Walder says has cost $140 million and has gone on since Nassau first hit the financial skids more than a decade ago, is unfair. Residents of every county paying the payroll tax and other dedicated taxes for bus service, like Suffolk, are indirectly footing Nassau's bills.

Nassau, however, should get an audited statement of where the money goes. The county's share of the tab also needs to be graduated and phased in over the next few years.

Regionalization should be a priority. That the bus system in Nassau runs entirely apart from Suffolk's buses doesn't make sense. It prevents efficiencies and leaves service disjointed and disconnected. A study on regionalizing bus service is in the MTA's five-year plan, and must be completed.

Nassau must pay for its bus service. The MTA needs to be transparent in assessing the cost. And everyone needs to work together to improve services and save money. hN