Legislator Francis Becker (R-Lynbrook) has called upon Nassau County’s bus operator to bring proposed cuts to the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) Bus before the Transit Advisory Committee (TAC), a body that can approve or deny proposed changes to the system. This came after calls from advocates earlier in the week.
The contract between Veolia and Nassau County requires that the TAC review any service change that cuts a route by more than 25%, but NICE has repeatedly stonewalled advocates’ requests for detailed statistics on ridership impacts and the percentage of hours to be cut.
Although NICE officials have portrayed the cuts as “minor adjustments,” what little data they have released shows three routes with reductions of over 20% in weekday or Saturday service.
- N16: 24.2% reduction in weekday service
- N45: 16.4% reduction in weekday service; 22.2% reduction in Saturday service
- N73/74: 21.1% reduction in weekday service
In testimony before the legislature on Monday, Charlene Obernauer of the Long Island Bus Riders Union said that some route cuts would force riders to transfer more than once, which would lead to a de facto fare hike.
“Re-routing plans that increase the numbers of transfers not only makes the bus system less convenient, but it forces riders who have to transfer three times to pay an additional $2.25 to get to one destination,” she said.
According to Newsday, Veolia Transportation CEO Michael Setzer has said that the transfer issue will impact a “very small” number of people, but it amounts to an additional $4.50 per round trip. Federal law holds that such an increase should trigger a fare equity analysis.
Until further details are known, including whether local service will be maintained after the implementation of new express services, Becker is right to call for more information and a hearing, even if Veolia is not required to do so under the contract. Doing so would be, in Becker’s words, an act of “good faith.”
Not doing so undermines one of the key selling points made during the push to privatize Nassau’s bus system: increased oversight and transparency.