In the face of declining ridership and high levels of rider dissatisfaction, nearly two dozen local groups sent a letter to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and the members of the Nassau County Legislature in August calling for increased funding for Nassau County’s bus system, Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE).
Unfortunately, although the final Nassau County budget is due by the end of the month, the County’s proposed contribution to NICE remains a paltry $2.6 million in the County Executive’s proposed budget. The groups hope that robust support from a diverse background of service sectors including rider, labor, social services, planning, environmental and transportation groups, will help convince Nassau County’s elected officials that funding the beleaguered bus system is good public policy. Support for increased funding for the bus system was particularly strong from Nassau’s business community, which made up 20 percent of the signatories to the letter. Region-wide business groups like the Long Island Business Council and the Long Island Association, as well as local business advocates like the Hicksville and Freeport Chambers of Commerce, helped make the case that County investment must be increased.
Business group support for better transit in Nassau County should come as no surprise to legislators and the County Executive. Small and large businesses alike know that public transit expands and diversifies employment pools. Good service also reduces transportation costs keeping more money in the wallets of potential customers. But it isn’t just business interest groups that recognize the importance of bus service to their bottom line. A local civic leader in Bethpage recently wrote a Letter to the Editor to Newsday calling for the restoration of all NICE service to weekends as a way to get more people to “outdoor fairs, festivals, afternoon concerts, theater matinees and many other venues” to boost the local economy.
Doing so wouldn’t break Nassau County’s bank. A Tri-State analysis of the County’s contract with Veolia Transportation, the company that runs NICE, found that even if County Legislators amended the budget to restore the $7.3 million in ‘savings’ from service cuts made in April 2012, NICE would be able to add almost 84,000 hours of service while only increasing the County’s proposed $2.79 billion budget by .26 percent.