When Veolia took over operations of Long Island Bus from the MTA, the company never made explicit promises to maintain service levels or the fare structure. Now, just a few months into their tenure, the company has announced proposed service cuts totaling $7.2 million set for April. “A budget shortfall makes service changes necessary, although the changes are significantly less than those proposed by the MTA last year, involve no route cancellations, and are designed to impact the fewest possible passengers,” the company said in a statement.
Clearly, Veolia is a bit touchy about these service cuts. In the statement, they claim that they have realized $35 million in operating efficiencies and that the cuts are only a portion of the $26 million in eliminations proposed by the MTA. Of course, that MTA proposal was designed as a ploy to call Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s bluff. The MTA simply wanted Nassau County to be upholding its end of the funding agreement.
So how is Veolia planning on these “reductions and reconfigurations”? They offered up this take: “Our proposed system re-design is the result of a very careful analysis of how riders use the system. We rode every route and every stop, seven days a week, recording actual passenger usage and travel patterns. After a rigorous analysis, we focused on making the smartest changes that would impact the fewest passengers. Naturally, we focused on the routes that are least used by customers and are thus the most expensive to operate.”
Essentially, then, Veolia is doing what the MTA threatened to do. Since Mangano cut county contributions to the bus system from $9 to $2.5 million, NICE BUS is essentially placing that funding cut on the backs of its riders. Perhaps the are operating at greater efficiencies than the MTA. Perhaps the MTA was bluffing about a $26 million cut to force Mangano’s hand. Either way, Long Islanders are no better off now as their county leadership continues to withdraw funding for transit.