After months of public posturing and closed-door negotiations with Nassau County, the MTA Board voted this morning to cut all subsidies for the Long Island Bus. As the battle over funding has dragged on through the fall, the vote was not a surprise, and negotiations will continue into the spring. For now, Nassau County riders won’t be left without buses as the MTA must give 60 days’ notice before suspending service, but the urgency to find a solution to the funding woes is very much there.
Essentially, the debate is one of dollars. The bus system costs over $130 million to operate, and while the state picks up $45 million in costs, the county pays just $9 million. The MTA pays the rest even though Nassau County originally agreed in the 1970s to foot the bill. “I think Nassau County has an obligation to fund bus service in Nassau County, just as every other suburban county has an obligation,” MTA CEO and Chair Jay Walder said after the vote today.
Eventually, I expect the county and authority to reach a funding agreement that will gradually phase out MTA contributions while Nassau County increases theirs. Still, Nassau County is moving forward with a request for proposals should they need to privatize the system, and advocates are awaiting the resolution of this political drama with bated breath. “We’re disappointed,” TSTC’s Ryan Lynch said to Newsday. “They’re negotiating, so we have some hope.”