The game of chicken between the cash-strapped MTA and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is about to leave approximately 16,000 residents of Nassau County without bus service. As Newsday reported this morning, the authority has failed to reach a funding agreement with the delinquent county and will cut 25 of Long Island Bus’ 48 routes.
According to Alfonso Castillo’s report, Bethpage, Elmont and Lindenhurst will be left without bus service and two other lines will enjoy weekday-only buses. “I can’t tell you that people will not be hurt by this. People will be hurt by this,” MTA CEO and Chair Jay Walder said to Newsday. “We can only provide the services that are being funded.”
Castillo has more on the long-standing conflict between Mangano and the MTA:
Walder said the bare-bones bus services are all the MTA can afford to run, given that Nassau County contributes only $9.1 million to the bus system’s $141-million annual budget. By comparison, Suffolk pays about $24 million toward its bus system’s $48.6 million budget.
MTA officials say the service cuts will save $12.2 million a year, including salaries of more than 200 LI Bus employees who will be laid off. Walder said the cuts target lines with the fewest passengers. Service for about 85 percent of riders will be kept. Because Nassau ‘s paratransit bus service – Able-Ride – mirrors fixed bus routes, about 18 percent of disabled bus riders also face losing their transportation.
Walder said the decision follows several failed attempts for more than a year to convince County Executive Edward Mangano that Nassau must give LI Bus the same support other counties give their bus services. “The reality is in this case the county has a mismatch. It has put in the funding for one level of service, but it expects a level of service that is much larger than that,” Walder said.
Once upon a time, Nassau County vowed to cover the difference between fare revenue and operating costs for the LI Bus routes, but lately, the suburban county has scaled back its contributions. Mangano’s office claims it cannot find the $24 million necessary to support bus service, and it continues to look toward private operators as a potential way out of this problem. As of early November, three companies had submitted bids.
Meanwhile, the MTA is defending this action and has highlighted how the county has failed to compromise. The agency has cut administrative costs by 33 percent and has been attempted to eke every last dollar out of the Long Island Bus holdings. “At the end of the day, even at the lowest possible costs, it’s costing more than the county is providing,” Walder said.
The people who stand to lose the most also spoke out against the cuts. As one Nassau County resident spoke of her decision to move to Forest Hills for the sake of her commute, another expressed his dismay. “I think it’s the most ridiculous thing people have ever thought of,” a Levittown bus rider said. “This is like crippling you from getting to work.”
The MTA will hold a hearing on the cuts on March 23. It’s still not too late for legislative action, but timing is slowly running short as the MTA plans to vote on the cuts in April. “It’s devastating,” Kate Slevin of the Tri-State Transprotation Campaign said. “These are people who are struggling as it is – a lot of the working poor, lots of students, lots of senior citizens who can no longer drive.”