An Able-Ride bus transports a patient from a medical facilty...

An Able-Ride bus transports a patient from a medical facilty in Island Park. Credit: Jim Staubitser, 2012

One month into Veolia Transportation’s attempt to save money on Able-Ride bus service for disabled riders by having people share trips whenever possible, it's not shocking that there have been bumps in the road.

For decades, while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ran Nassau's buses, every Able-Ride user -- 1,130 per day -- was carried individually for each leg of his or her trip. When Veolia took over Nassau’s LI Bus on Jan. 1, promising to run the system for much as $30 million less than the MTA’s estimate, the company also agreed not to cut Able-Ride service for at least three years. On May 1, Veolia began combining the journeys of multiple disabled riders, hoping to increase efficiency while still providing good service.

In some cases, according to a report in Monday’s Newsday, it clearly didn't work. The result was painfully long travel and wait times, several hours in some cases, for riders ill-equipped to handle them.

Even Michael Setzer, in charge of Veolia's Nassau bus operations, conceded the implementation moved too quickly, bringing disappointing results. Some reasons were that all of Able-Ride’s previous dispatchers elected to stay with the MTA when Veolia took over, new drivers were assigned to some routes, and about half the Able-Ride buses have broken GPS systems.

Setzer says it's gotten better in recent weeks, and will improve more. In truth, it's fair to prod Veolia, but it's still too early in the company's tenure to judge it too harshly.

Veolia needs to do a better job of transporting the county's disabled riders in a reasonably timely manner, but the company is right to stop the policy that had no rides shared. Nassau can't afford that, but Veolia must do a better job of changing the practice if wants to keep its contract and the support of riders, officials and taxpayers.


 

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