In the six years since Nassau County privatized its bus service, NICE bus has saved tens of millions of dollars but cut significant service. The county’s huge buses lost too much money cruising its least populated routes, and those cuts made financial sense. But the lost routes left too many residents without an affordable transportation option.
Now the bus operator is testing a new answer, and it might be a very good one. Starting next week, NICE will introduce on-demand ride-sharing using 14-passenger buses in a test area that includes parts of East Meadow, Merrick and Bellmore. Residents can use the GoMobile app, and the service will respond with an itinerary, time of pickup and how long the trip will take. A passenger can accept the service and pay $4.50 a ride.
That’s a lot more than the $2.75 bus fare (or $1.35 for senior citizens), but a lot less than what a taxi or typical ride-share would cost. The service won’t take MetroCard, and operates in a limited area. And it will only run from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
But it’s a start, a good and innovative way to provide a needed and affordable service in Nassau County. Hopefully it will work, and get better, serving more of the county for more of the day and night.
The smaller buses are cheaper and nimbler, and that’s what governments have to be if they want to take care of their residents at prices taxpayers can afford. — The editorial board