Home Buses For Long Island Bus, a temporary reprieve

For Long Island Bus, a temporary reprieve

by Benjamin Kabak

Nassau County has not invested in its own bus system. (Graph via TSTC)

Thanks to last-minute action by the New York State Senate, Nassau County bus riders will be spared a slate of cuts that would have decimated Long Island Bus service. On Friday, the MTA, Nassau County and Senator Republicans led by Charles Fuschillo (R, Merrick) and Jack Martins (R-C-I, Mineola) announced an $8.6 million compromise that will see the MTA receive half of the money it wanted in exchange for a commitment to keep service alive through December 31. It’s a start but only that.

“We have heard from many of our constituents that depend on Long Island Bus services to get to work, school or go shopping,” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said in a statement. “They are very concerned that if these cuts go through, they will have no other way to get around. Fortunately, we were able to reach an agreement to avert the cuts and prevent any disruption in service. I want to thank Senator Fuschillo and Senator Martins for their leadership in responding to this issue.”

Essentially, the Senate has made $8.6 million in capital money available to the MTA for LI Bus operations. This will be added to the $52.4 million appropriate by the 2011-2012 budget for the service, and the 27 route cuts will be off the table. Nassau County though says it will still seek to remove the MTA as the service’s operator by the end of the year.

“I applaud the efforts of our Nassau County State Senators for working with me to come together in support of our residents that rely on Long Island Bus for their transportation needs,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who has called for MTA CEO and Chairman Jay Walder’s resignation over the conflict, said. “Their assistance ensures that all current bus routes will remain intact. I remain committed to fostering communication and working with the MTA to ensure a smooth transition as we enter a public-private partnership starting January 2012. This public-private partnership will enable us to provide comparable bus routes at a much more affordable rate to Nassau County taxpayers.”

Transit advocates though were less than thrilled with the news simply because Mangano’s insistence on attempting to privatize the service seems to be utterly failing. “Over the coming months, Nassau County will have to show the same type of leadership,” the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said in a statement. “The deal gives Nassau County Executive Mangano more time to come up with a workable proposal for a local transit system. None of the privatization schemes released by the county so far appear to qualify. Affordable transit that maintains access to jobs, education, and social services is critical to the county’s economy and quality of life.”

It’s tough to see where this debacle goes from here. As Jim O’Grady at Transportation Nation noted this weekend, “Nassau County is one of the richest counties in the nation, but has, over the years, run its finances into the ground.”

The county is going to have to figure out a way to either work with the MTA or find a better solution. Privatization, in the model Mangano envisions, isn’t feasible. The County will likely have to pay more for transit under a privatized solution, and it can’t continue to expect the state to bail it out when its executive starts behaving like a spoiled child who doesn’t understand his constituents’ needs or demands. For now, the bus service has been saved, and while politicians are slapping themselves on the back, this is hardly a great cause for celebration.

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Cap'n Transit April 4, 2011 - 12:51 am

I guess $8.6 million isn’t that much in the context of the whole capital plan, but which part of the capital budget is going to be cut to pay for this? The Second Avenue Subway? The Fulton Street Transit Center? Let me guess: the station painting and signal maintenance programs?

Benjamin Kabak April 4, 2011 - 12:53 am

It’s unclear if this money is coming from the MTA capital budget or from the State Senate’s discretionary capital budget. I hope it’s the latter but fear it’s the former.

Cap'n Transit April 4, 2011 - 12:53 am

In fact, I propose we rename the 21st Street-Van Alst station the “Mangano-Fuschillo-Martins Highway Robbery Station.”

Scott E April 4, 2011 - 8:43 am

If the county is only giving half the desired money, why is bus service continuing through the end of the year? Is the MTA’s fiscal year July 1-June 30? This is another sign of the MTA not standing their ground.

I know people who rely on LI Bus to get around, and I feel for them… I really do. But there comes a time when the MTA and the Nassau County government needs to face reality. I’d love to hear about Mangano’s proposed “public-private partnership”. Is it anything more than just three words on a piece of paper? With the recent publicity of poor safety records on several private bus lines, this could be an uphill battle.

JAzumah April 4, 2011 - 10:25 am

Considering that there was a serious MTA bus accident last week and an MTA bus fire as well, the notion that public buses are safer than private buses is unfounded. The oversight of MTA bus safety by non-MTA elements is virtually zero.

Mangano’s current model of privatization is certainly weak, but Westchester and Suffolk are both privatized systems. Let us not act like private bus companies cannot in general operate a municipal bus system as Nassau is planning the same type of system. Nassau’s issue is money.

Adam G April 4, 2011 - 11:02 am

Nassau’s issue is money, and the Westchester and Suffolk private bus systems *cost more*.

Benjamin Kabak April 4, 2011 - 11:07 am

Let me know the next time an MTA bus driver falls asleep behind the wheel, crashes into a pole and kills 15 passengers in an accident. Then, we can talk. Minor accidents and bus fires happen to everyone regardless of the operator.

Anyway, no one is denying that privatization done right would be fine. The problem is that Mangano thinks he can reduce Nassau County’s contributions to the bus system while finding a private company willing to foot the bill for an unprofitable transportation network. Either you’ll see routes canceled or fares go up by 200-300 %. Neither of those outcomes are desirable.

SEAN April 4, 2011 - 12:32 pm

You are on the money Ben. There’s no way any opperator will allow theme selves to sign a contract where they are garenteed losing money.

Al D April 5, 2011 - 1:23 pm

Just look what happened to the ill-fated Yassky van program to replace discontinued bus routes. Not identical, but similar. LI bus routes that can be run for a profit will be kept, all others will be disbanded without a county subsidy.

Bolwerk April 4, 2011 - 2:44 pm

Privatization isn’t a magic money-saver. A private company can operate as ineffectively as a public company, without the benefits of lower-cost government financing.

Donald April 4, 2011 - 5:27 pm

If private bus lines are so good and profitable, then why did all the private bus lines in NYC disappear?

Donald April 4, 2011 - 5:30 pm

Drivers at private bus lines are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel since they work split shifts (they work 12 hours, but get paid for 8). An MTA driver, however, works 8 hours and gets paid for 8 hours. Working a 12 hour shift puts a lot of fatigue on the body.

Frank B. April 4, 2011 - 5:51 pm

Let them privatize the buses; They’ll come crawling back.

tacony palmyra April 5, 2011 - 1:33 pm

Quote from the Transpo Nation article: “That would’ve put the county in line with nearby Suffolk and Westchester counties, which respectively pay $24 million and $30 million per year for similar services from the MTA.”

I thought the point was that Suffolk and Westchester have privately operated systems, so they don’t pay the MTA for them. Am I reading this wrong?

MTA Board votes to terminate LI Bus contract :: Second Ave. Sagas April 28, 2011 - 12:50 am

[…] Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and the MTA over Nassau County bus service, which included a last-minute reprieve earlier this month, the authority’s board has voted to terminate its agreement with the […]


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