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VIDEO: Riders Hold ‘People’s Hearing’ on LI Bus Privatization

Residents asking for five years without fare increases or service cuts.

Frustrated with a lack of public hearings and information about the planned takeover of Nassau County’s portion of MTA Long Island Bus by a private operator, residents and county politicians held their own hearing.

Dubbed the “people’s hearing,” it was standing room only at the Ethical Humanist Society building in Garden City Wednesday night as dozens of residents attacked the county’s plan to turn over bus operations to Veolia Transportation on Jan. 1. The Illinois-based firm has come under scrutiny for raising fares, a lack of service and inadequate repairs to vehicles.

“We’re worried the county executive is taking our public transportation system back to the 1970s,” said Kate Slevin, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, noting that the MTA took over LI Bus when a private company was not able to provide adequate service.

The county began seeking a private operator as talks with the MTA stalled over the amount of subsidies the county would provide to keep the busses running. The MTA had proposed several options, including contributing $25 million in subsidies or a $9 million contribution, but face substantial cuts in service.

Nassau provided a $9.1 million subsidy to the MTA to operate the service with additional subsidies from the state and Federal levels, which it intends to maintain at a minimum level in order to maintain Federal matching grants.

“The negotiation is between the administration and the MTA — neither of them can find middle ground,” said Jostyn Hernandez, communications director for Nassau Comptroller George Maragos. The comptroller’s office has requested details of the new contract be submitted before Oct. 1 for a proper review.

County Executive Ed Mangano and Veoila have guaranteed that service will not be cut and fares will remain the same through 2012 and insist riders will get better service. However, subsequent years are worrisome to many, including disabled riders who utilize the AbleRide system.

“We were not put on this earth to be shut in. We can contribute to the community but we need to be able to get to work ... and we need to be able to get to school,” Hempstead resident Angela Davis said.

It was speculated that Veolia would use the first year as a loss-leader in order to raise fares in subsequent years.

“It looks like you’re bringing in a company that will raise costs, eliminate some bus lines, decrease safety and will not pay their own workers a living wage,” Dr. Karen Carlo from  Garden City Community Church said. “When people can’t get to work they have no choice but to rely on various forms of public assistance.” 

State Sen. Jack Martins, one of the few Republicans in attendance at the hearing, was asking for more information anyway possible, including a hearing. “The last thing we need is to put 100,000 people home when they should be either going to school, learning a trade or getting to work,” he said. 

The county does reportedly plan to hold a public hearing on the contract in October, however, Legis. Wayne Wink, D-Roslyn, stated that it was his understanding that the contract would only be subject to approval from the Rules Committee, and not the full legislature. The committee consists of four Republicans and three Democrats.

Publius September 03, 2011 at 12:02 AM
This spring I rode the bus from Hicksville to Mineola via Old Country Rd in the late afternoon. The bus was packed and we made almost every stop to let people on and off. Most people looked like they we going to or from work. If my experience is indicative of usual ridership, this is a vital service that should not be disrupted.
Bill Sweeney September 05, 2011 at 10:04 AM
No one knows what will happen, but if you have people that are completely reliant on public transit to get to work, etc., reductions in service should not be an excuse to seek more public assistance. You either find a way (Taxi Latino anyone?) or move to the city where the options are ample and are a much bigger part of life. I'm sorry, but I don't think this is a requirement of the government.
Brendan Soraghan September 05, 2011 at 11:47 AM
In Westchester County were we have a Public/Private partnership for our Bus Serivce it works very well . We dont want the MTA anywhere near the taking over of the Bee-Line system . Their costs are just too high .
John Pine September 06, 2011 at 05:03 AM
You know how much a taxi costs? These scummy cab companies often want $10 or more just to go a few miles. Get rid of the buses and you'll be waiting on long lines in the stores, since their employees wont be able to afford to go to work. Your attitude is typical of many here in Nassau County, oh "I dont take the bus so why do I care". But it will affect YOU TOO. You want your dry cleaning and your manicured lawns...well those people TAKE THE BUS. Businesses already fed up with high taxes will LEAVE when buses get cut back. Then you'll be upset when YOUR taxes go up because the tax base starts shrinking and more ppl show up at the welfare office because they cant afford to go to work. Just THINK about it...
John Pine September 06, 2011 at 05:06 AM
Thing is in Westchester the county puts $36 Million toward it's bus system, Nassau only wants to pay $4 Million. You can take a guess at how bad the bus service will be. Its not the MTA's fault as much as it is Nassau. The MTA was covering Nassau's portion of the LI Bus subsidy for many years at an increasing rate, then they decided it couldn't afford to anymore. Nassau USED to spend closer to $20 Million on its subsidy 10 years ago, now it's only $9 Million, with the rest covered by the MTA and the state. How can one of the richest counties in NY not be able to afford to cover its bus system?

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