Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) riders who use cash to pay for their bus rides won a big victory last week when, after months of advocacy in opposition to fare hikes, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano came out against increased fares for cash riders. In a nuanced statement issued last Wednesday, the County Executive called on the Bus Transit Committee to oppose the proposed NICE fare hikes on cash paying riders, but endorsed keeping NICE fares on par with MTA fares for those riders using MetroCards. Unfortunately, this means that 75 percent of all NICE users will still be impacted by higher NICE fares. But with the higher fares, those riders could be getting restored service.
Following Mangano’s statement, NICE spokesperson Andy Kraus said that the higher revenues from fares “[could] be used to enhance the quantity and quality of service for its riders.” But in a Newsday Letter to the Editor over the weekend, NICE Chief Executive Officer Michael Setzer refused to commit to restoring previously cut routes and stops, calling them “underutilized.”
In April 2012, NICE cut service and made modifications that resulted in approximately 9.5 percent fewer miles of service and 10.5 percent fewer hours of service than in 2011. These service reductions contributed to 4 percent fewer riders over the same time period and have led to overcrowding on many routes. If fares do increase, the expected increase in revenue (paired with the anticipated increase of $5 million in state funding included in Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget) should be used to improve service. One area to start would be in restoring the over $7 million in service cuts enacted throughout 2012.
At least one member of the Bus Transit Committee agrees. According to Newsday,
Bus Transit Committee member Livio Tony Rosario called the new fare revenue “found money” that should go to restoring midday service eliminated in some areas.