In a report released last week, the Suffolk County Welfare to Work Commission called for $5 million to support the permanent expansion of bus service to Sundays and for the extension of evening bus service from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Commission was formed to analyze the causes and potential solutions to poverty in Suffolk County, and Tri-State was invited to testify in front of the Commission earlier this year. In testimony, Tri-State’s associate director Ryan Lynch spoke about the need to expand service to Sundays in order to defray transportation costs for the 6 percent of households in Suffolk County that don’t have access to an automobile, and who are often forced to pay for expensive taxi rides to get to and from work on Sundays. Tri-State’s testimony also endorsed a countywide Complete Streets policy, which was adopted unanimously by the Suffolk County Legislature earlier this month.
In calling for permanent Sunday bus service, the report builds upon the successful pilot program that has been in effect for the past two summers on two East End lines. The program has seen increased ridership and has been well-received by riders and the business community. In an editorial earlier this year, Newsday called for making the pilot program permanent and for the expansion of Sunday service to other routes throughout Suffolk County.
In order to pay for the service expansion, the report calls for a .25 percent increase in the County Sales Tax and a 2 percent General Fund Tax increase. The two increases, and savings from anti-poverty programs, would net the County $71 million a year (adding only $2 to a typical property tax bill), and in addition to paying for expanded bus service, would support a host of other economic development, housing and health care related programs.
Beyond acting upon this report, the County must also look to the State for increased transit support, a role the State has played well in neighboring Nassau County. In 2012, the state provided 47 percent of Nassau’s bus budget, but only provided 31 percent of Suffolk County’s funding in 2011. In a September letter, over 20 businesses, labor, smart growth and transportation groups called for increased state funding in next year’s budget to expand and make permanent Sunday bus service.
To learn more about the Commission’s report, be sure to join Commission Chair Dr. Richard Koubek for a press conference at 1 p.m. tomorrow [Thursday] at Suffolk County’s Legislature in Hauppauge, NY.