Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano announced today that the county intends to select Veolia Transportation as the private operator to run Long Island Bus starting next year. But the announcement didn’t answer crucial questions about the system’s future, as highlighted in a new report.
Members of the public and advocates were denied entry to Mangano’s press conference in Mineola. The county executive reportedly said that fares and service levels would be maintained through 2012, but it wasn’t clear what would happen after that. Sources told MTR that some parts of the deal between Veolia and the county will continue to be negotiated through the end of this year. That means it’s unclear what the deal will cost the county in future years. County officials have previously said a private system could be run with county funding levels as low as $2-4 million a year, math which just doesn’t add up.
The day before the announcement, Tri-State released a short report, Why Privatizing Long Island Bus Could Cost Taxpayers More, which examines the track records of the three firms that had been in the running for LI Bus. The experience of other transit systems operated by these firms suggests that a private takeover of LI Bus could cost the county more but mean less service for riders.
For example, last year Veolia received a local subsidy of $77 million to operate Phoenix’s bus system, and provided 1.9 million hours of service. By contrast, Nassau County contributed only $9.1 million to LI Bus (with the MTA paying another $25 million) and received 1.2 million hours of service.
Veolia previously came under scrutiny because of reported ties to Nassau Republican donor and former U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato. Newsday also took an early look at the company’s U.S. safety record, finding that the company won a safety award in Phoenix, but was dropped in Florida after its shuttle vans were involved in two fatal crashes, and was audited in Georgia after three of its buses caught on fire.
The Veolia contract must be approved by the County Legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state agency which has taken over county finances due to mismanagement.