In a 3-2 vote yesterday, the Nassau Inter-County Express Bus Transit Committee (BTC) endorsed a fare hike on 73 percent of riders who use MetroCard. Voting in favor were Chairman Sheldon Shrenkel, Lawrence Blessinger and Kathy Comerford. Voting in opposition were Jean Duroseau and Livio Rosario.
While the Transit Committee endorsed higher fares for MetroCard users, the news was not all bad for NICE customers. After weeks of opposition to the proposed fare hike from riders, labor, civic and planning groups, the BTC did not raise fares on the 27 percent of riders who pay with cash. The action followed County Executive Ed Mangano’s call last month to prevent fare hikes on cash riders.
NICE CEO Michael Setzer, who after failing to commit to restoring service on previously cut routes, agreed to use the increase in revenue to add more bus and Able-Ride service on the ground. The approximately $3 million in new fare revenues (which could be coupled with an additional $5 million in new state operating aid if adopted in the final state budget) would be used to add hours of service, particularly weekend service that was cut back due to limited County funding. Setzer plans to add roughly 10 buses beginning in April with additional (but unspecified) service improvements in September. Given that 2012 marked Nassau County’s lowest bus ridership since 1998, the restoration of service hours, which were cut by 10 percent in 2012, should help to rebuild ridership in 2013 and beyond.
Meanwhile, advocacy for better service continues. Ana Giraldo, coordinator of the Long Island Bus Riders Union (LIBRU), challenged BTC members to ride the bus to experience what it is like to be a NICE rider. LIBRU also delivered over a thousand petitions from riders opposed to the fare hike and encouraged attendees to attend LIBRU’s Public Forum.