It looks like Long Island Bus, long the unwanted stepchild of government, has finally found a home in the MTA family. Cost savings and increased LI Bus service could be the largest impact of the MTA’s Wednesday announcement that it is combining LI Bus, NYC Transit’s bus division, and MTA Bus into a regional bus operation headed by one executive (Joseph Smith, NYC Transit’s senior vice president for buses). The restructuring will be complete within 90 days.
Though nominally a division of the MTA, LI Bus is currently funded through a problematic arrangement whereby the MTA operates the service, but funding comes from a combination of fares and annual appropriations from New York State and Nassau County. The lack of a stable financing formula means that LI Bus funding has fluctuated as the county and state have fought over how much each should pay (see, for example, MTR #s 551, 390, and 266).
While new regional bus head Joseph Smith said in a statement that the regional bus initiative would result in better service for LI Bus, there are no guarantees that LI Bus will be on stable financial footing — especially if Nassau County believes it can now hand off its responsibility for funding the system over to the cash-strapped MTA. To avoid this, the MTA, Nassau County, and New York State need to renegotiate the funding agreement to find the agency a secure financial footing.
Farther north, Westchester County’s Bee-Line Bus system faces similar financial difficulties (though it is not in the MTA’s family) and is another obvious partner for an eventual regional bus system.