New York State’s recently adopted budget included additional funding for the bus systems in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. These new funds present an opportunity to help mitigate proposed service cuts in Nassau, and they could help ease fare hikes or expand service in Suffolk.
The additional $4 million in State Transit Operating Assistance (STOA) provided to Nassau in New York State’s budget comes at a time of dire need: just four months after the county privatized its bus system, riders are facing service cuts, which are set to go into effect on Sunday. In a recent letter to Nassau lawmakers, Tri-State pointed out that the additional funds could be used to mitigate planned service reductions for the county’s hardest-hit riders. The cuts will reduce service on 60% of all routes, and many of the changes are severe. As it stands, off-peak service will be eliminated on the N21 and N45, and Saturday service will be eliminated on the N21, N45, N48, and N51. Sunday service will also be eliminated on the N21.
Suffolk County Transit (SCT) will also see an increase in STOA, to the tune of $1.5 million. After twenty years without a fare hike, SCT riders will face a 33% fare increase beginning in early May, but the lift in state funding could allow the county to phase in the change. This approach would ease the financial burden on SCT riders, who, on average, make $20,000 less than commuters that drive to work alone. Alternatively, as a letter from Tri-State to Suffolk County officials outlined, these funds could be used to build upon SCT’s rapid growth over the past decade by adding Sunday service to the majority of its routes. From 2000 to 2010, Suffolk County bus ridership increased by almost 45%, and a 2011 pilot program for Sunday service on two East End routes proved to be very popular; expanding Sunday service throughout the system would build upon these successes.