Although Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi’s Proposed 2009 Budget Summary includes a property tax hike of 3.9% for the next fiscal year, none of that will be dedicated to increased funding for Long Island Bus. That’s because it was more of the same when it came to the County’s responsibility for funding the nation’s largest suburban bus system. If the budget is passed as proposed, Nassau’s subsidy to LI Bus will remain $10.5 million for the fifth year in a row (see MTR #s 564, 473).
While a key objective of the Planning Department in the proposed budget is to “…provide support for initiatives that will improve public transit services and amenities for Nassau County residents,” the county chooses to continue to shirk its responsibility to the system, even as the demand for better and more efficient transit increases throughout the region. Through the first five months of 2008 (the most recent data available), LI Bus ridership has been 3.5% higher than in the same period in 2007; at this pace 2008 will be the highest-ridership year in the agency’s history. This begs the question, how exactly does the County Executive propose to improve the system while keeping its funding stream stagnant as ridership demand increases?
County Executive Suozzi needs to avoid getting caught up in the annual bickering between New York State, the MTA and his County over who should fund what when it comes to Long Island Bus, and engage in more constructive dialog. A good start would be to work out how the absorption of LI Bus into a regional bus agency will change its funding formula. With the Ravitch Commission working on the larger issue of the MTA’s finances, Suozzi has an opportunity to catalyze reforms which will ensure adequate and predictable funding for LI Bus.