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Nassau County needs to fund buses

The N51 bus stop at Nassau Community

The N51 bus stop at Nassau Community College on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 in Garden City.... Credit: Howard Schnapp

When Nassau legislators refused to allow County Executive Edward Mangano’s $12 million tax increase and cut his proposed increases in fees by $16 million, they gave him a scapegoat. Now the administration can blame cuts in services on legislators, and it can side with community activists who say the neediest among us are being hurt.

Bus routes and service are to be cut on Jan. 17, affecting about 2,000 of the 100,000 users of Nassau Inter-County Express. NICE is run by a for-profit operator that has saved the county more than $100 million since it took over the system from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2012. And it has done so with few service cuts, but increased fares from $2.25 to $2.75. But this trimming of services will hurt.

NICE officials say that while some riders who lose a route will only have to walk a few blocks farther to a stop, others will be too far from a route for NICE to be an easy option. These are buses riders use to get to work, school, doctors and stores. The service is crucial for the county’s most vulnerable residents.

The county has gotten a great deal: Last year it paid about $6 million of NICE’s $131 million budget while the state kicked in about $59 million, an unusually large subsidy. The county has budgeted about the same this year. And county officials aren’t lying when they say it would be easier to prevent service cuts if they had the fee and tax revenue the legislature denied them. But there’s plenty of other money wasted by the county government, including that which goes to part-time jobs and unvetted contracts for the politically connected, and mailers which let people know what a dandy job Mangano is doing. Bus service cuts happen when a county can’t increase revenue. But they also happen when revenue is misspent.