Does Nassau County Executive Mangano’s Budget Renege on a NICE Bus Funding Increase?

Photo: Newsday/John Paraskevas

It appears that any additional funding for NICE bus is going to come from a fare hike — not from Nassau County’s budget. | Photo: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Nassau County Legislators are set to hear testimony on County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposed 2015 budget at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, October 1, at the County Legislature in Mineola. Most of the attention surrounding the release of the $2.98 billion budget earlier this month has been centered on the County Executive’s proposed property tax hike. But another issue seems to have gone unmentioned: it appears the County Executive is reneging on his commitment to increase funding for Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE).

In order to help fill a 2014 NICE funding deficit of $3.3 million, Nassau County agreed last spring to increase its funding for the bus system by $1.8 million. This 70 percent increase in funding would bring the County’s total contribution to NICE up to roughly $4.4 million. According to the recently released budget proposal, however, the County’s contribution remains stagnant at $2.5 million a year. Instead, the budget estimates that the system will generate $51.4 million in farebox revenue — a nearly 13 percent increase over NICE’s 2014 farebox revenue estimate of $45.6 million.

How this revenue jump will occur is not outlined in the budget, and seems far-fetched given that NICE annual ridership in 2013 was at a 15 year low, according to the National Transit Database. And through July, ridership is only slightly higher than that of 2013.

What is clear is that the County Executive seems to be trying to get out of his commitment by relying on a 4 percent fare hike anticipated in 2015. A 4 percent fare hike would, according to a Tri-State estimate, raise $1.8 million: the exact amount of revenue that Nassau County committed to providing to NICE.

» Continue reading…

Speed Camera Controversy in Nassau County Shows Speeding Bigger Problem than Realized

A “mobile unit” speed camera on patrol in Bethpage. | Photo: Newsday

Late last month, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano dismissed almost $2.5 million in speed camera violations because roughly a quarter of the 40,000 tickets issued were found to be issued in error. The 56 speed cameras are to be active during […]

Capitalizing on Existing Infrastructure: LIE HOV Potential

LIE HOVLast month, the Long Island Business News included a special section about the Long Island Expressway, analyzing the history of the project, to the land use patterns it fostered along the corridor

The special report examines the history of the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane which turned 20 years old this year. Over the past three decades, the nearly $900 million HOV lane has helped encourage carpooling along the notoriously congested I-495 corridor by requiring cars to have at least two occupants. Additionally, it has encouraged greener vehicle options allowing access to the HOV lane for single drivers displaying a ‘Clean Pass Vehicle’ sticker.

But as we look towards the next twenty years for the HOV lane, how can this nearly billion dollar investment be better utilized?

According to 2013 NYS Department of Transportation data counts at Exit 50 (Bagatelle Road), the HOV2+ lane during the 9 restricted hours (6-10am and 3-8pm) accommodated 31 percent of all people moving along the LIE on 25 percent of lanes designated as HOV.

While this number may seem impressive, what is more heartening is that these lanes can accommodate a much greater percentage of people. While 31 percent of people using the LIE avail themselves of the HOV lanes during restricted times, only 16.6 percent of vehicles are using the HOV lane.

» Continue reading…

NYSDOT Advances Balanced Route 112 Plan, But Better Bike Infrastructure Needed

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is advancing a project on Route 112 from Granny Road to New York State Route 25 in the Town of Brookhaven that will serve to better balance the roadway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. The roughly 1.5 mile project, entering its final design phase, will:

  • build out connected sidewalk infrastructure on both sides of the roadway
  • enhance pedestrian crossings
  • implement landscaped medians and
  • include a five- to six-foot bike shoulder

In early June, TSTC submitted comments supporting the project as a “good example of a ‘fix-it-first’ initiative that maintains existing road infrastructure [and] improv[es] mobility by redesigning Route 112 into a more complete street”, but also called for a more progressive vision for bicycling infrastructure.

While shoulders are a welcome first step to encourage cycling, TSTC suggested further steps to improve safety for cyclists along this corridor, such as implementing plastic bollards or paint-buffered bike lanes. Either of these treatments would better delineate space for cyclists and enhance their safety, and the safety of other road users by creating a traffic calming effect. Increased safety will also lead to increased ridership.  According to a study of road injuries in Vancouver and Toronto conducted by the American Journal of Public Health, roads with protected bicycle infrastructure saw the risk of injury reduced by 90 percent when compared to wide roads with no cycling infrastructure. And a study by Portland State University’s National Institute of Transportation and Communities found that protected bicycle lanes increased ridership by an average of 75 percent.

» Continue reading…

Lack of Additional Funding from Suffolk State Legislators Leaves County Transit Riders Out to Dry

Suffolk County Transit riders were left in a lurch after New York State’s legislative session ended without securing funding for expanded bus service last week.

Suffolk County State Senators and Assembly members failed to deliver for bus riders, despite a letter from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature, calls from advocates […]

Dan Burden, Advocates Lead Walking Audit on One of Long Island’s Most Dangerous Roads

The group crosses Sunrise Highway in Freeport. | Photo: Samantha Thomas/WALC

Dan Burden, a national authority on traffic, pedestrian safety and street design, led a walking audit with local elected officials, civic groups and advocates along Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, Baldwin and Freeport on Thursday.

Sunrise Highway, a multi-lane thoroughfare that runs through each community’s downtown, […]

Suffolk County Legislators Adopt a Complete Streets Implementation Fund

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco | Photo: suffolkcountyny.gov

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco | Photo: suffolkcountyny.gov

The Suffolk County Legislature voted today to establish a Complete Streets Implementation Fund behind the leadership of Legislator Rob Calarco and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. The 17-1 vote creates an amendment to the County’s 2015-2017 Capital Program, which will provide a yearly allotment of $250,000 to redesign the County’s roadways to more safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists, beginning in 2016 and continuing each subsequent year.

Tri-State, along with the AARP and Vision Long Island and other safe streets advocates have been calling for the creation of such a fund since the County’s Complete Streets policy was adopted a year and a half ago.

» Continue reading…

Suffolk County Set to Establish a Complete Streets Fund

Suffolk County is poised to fund the implementation of complete streets infrastructure, like the sidewalk and bike lane in the Town of Brookhaven, Long Island, pictured here. | Photo: Ryan Lynch/TSTC

The Suffolk County Legislature is poised to fund the implementation of complete streets infrastructure, like this new sidewalk and bike lane in the Town of Brookhaven, Long Island. | Photo: Liz Krolik-Alexander

After repeated calls from Tri-State and safe street allies for additional funding for complete streets implementation in Suffolk County, it appears the County Legislature is primed to create a Complete Streets Fund in its 2015-2017 Capital Program. Scheduled for a final vote tomorrow, the proposed amendment to the Capital Program calls for $250,000 a year – beginning in 2016 and each subsequent year – to be dedicated to building infrastructure that enhances the mobility and safety of all users of Suffolk’s roads.

The amendment has been championed by Legislator Rob Calarco and supported by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory as a means of facilitating the implementation of the County’s complete streets law adopted in December of 2012.

» Continue reading…

Advocates Call on Suffolk County to Fund Complete Streets Implementation in Capital Plan

Advocates called on the Suffolk County Legislature to fund the implementation of Complete Streets this week. | Photo: Ryan Lynch

Advocates called on the Suffolk County Legislature to fund the implementation of Complete Streets this week. | Photo: Ryan Lynch

Suffolk County is home to some of the deadliest roads for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in the region. According to a Tri-State Transportation Campaign analysis of federal data, 122 pedestrians were killed along roads in Suffolk County from 2010-2012, with the Suffolk County portion of Jericho Turnpike seeing 16 pedestrian fatalities alone. According to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee, 278 motorists and passengers, and 22 cyclists were killed during the same time period. 52,000 non-fatal injuries occurred as a result of almost 90,000 crashes from 2010-2012.

Suffolk County adopted a Complete Streets law in 2012, but implementation of the law is still in its early stages. One reason for the delay is a lack of available funding. The federal transportation bill, MAP-21, cut dedicated walking and biking infrastructure investment by 30 percent while New York State plans to spend less than one percent of its transportation dollars on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. This represents a reduction of more than $100 million — a 40 percent cut — in its 2014-2017 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) as compared to 2011-2014.  In Region 10 on Long Island, planned spending on walking and biking projects will be cut by 24 percent over the next four years, resulting in a paltry .57 percent of the regional allocation of transportation dollars for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

» Continue reading…

NICE Budget Hole Plugged with Additional County Funding and Cash Fare Hike

Photo: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Photo: Newsday/John Paraskevas

At last week’s Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) Bus Transit Committee meeting, NICE CEO Michael Setzer outlined a plan to fill the $3.3 million deficit in this year’s NICE budget. The deficit mitigation plan includes:

  • $1.8 million in additional Nassau County funding – a 70 percent increase in the County’s contribution – bringing the total annual funding to $4.4 million
  • Veolia, the private operator of NICE, will cede $400,000 in profit
  • Cash paying riders will see a fare increase of more than 10 percent — from $2.25 per trip, to $2.50, and
  • $700,000 of the deficit will be pushed into 2015 – the result of a proposal to align NICE’s fiscal budget with Nassau County’s January to December fiscal year, thereby reducing the timeline for the needed deficit mitigation from one year to 9 months

County Executive Ed Mangano should be applauded for providing additional funding for the NICE bus system, and Veolia’s generosity — while unlikely to continue from a business designed to turn a profit — is welcomed. This mitigation plan provides needed stability for riders; the NICE system has suffered declining ridership as a result of service reductions and declining customer satisfaction over the past two years.

For the second year in a row, however, a portion of the budget will be balanced on the backs of bus riders, with an additional fare hike expected in 2015.

» Continue reading…