Home Asides NICE BUS, $7.3 million in the red, already threatening service cuts

NICE BUS, $7.3 million in the red, already threatening service cuts

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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Matt Garland February 16, 2012 - 4:29 pm

NICE has such a bad website.

They of course have Ed Mangano’s diatribe front and center, but nowhere on their Fares and Passes page or on their FAQs do they have one piece of information that seems like it would be important — the cost of a fare. It’s not even on their maps & schedules – example PDF.

Am I missing something?

Anon256 February 17, 2012 - 2:12 am

As I understand it, the fares are the same as the MTA’s fares ($2.25, 7% bonus for topups over $8, one free transfer to bus or subway, unlimited ride cards accepted), which is why the Fares and Passes page just links to the MTA’s website.

Matt Garland February 17, 2012 - 9:05 am

Ah thanks… I appreciate the reply. Still don’t understand why they would not say that anywhere on their website, but oh well.

Tsuyoshi February 16, 2012 - 5:34 pm

I couldn’t find any actual information on the web site indicating what the proposed changes are. I’m assuming the savings they already have are driver pay cuts? I haven’t taken the bus in Nassau County at all, but if service was run by the MTA the same way they run it in the city, I can’t say I see any obvious ways to save money.

I’m happy I don’t live in Nassau. Not to put too fine a point on it, but when you elect politicians that are promising to cut spending, you get what you deserve…

Sunny February 16, 2012 - 5:44 pm

The part that infuriates me about this the most is that they’re holding the actual service changes back until the morning before the public meeting/hearing. That might mean they could be very, very controversial and they want to reduce media attention. Or they want to downplay the importance of the service changes and try to avoid a public outcry.

Plus, the name “community meeting” implies that public comment wouldn’t be considered, that it’s an information session where one can learn and ask questions about the proposal, not a legal hearing.

And doesn’t the law require one during the day and one during the evening?

SEAN February 16, 2012 - 5:53 pm

Cutting spending is the in thing right now. Just look at Europe & their government issues.

Come on, how many people didn’t see this comeing. Long Island officials don’t really care if there’s public transit or not.

The Cobalt Devil February 16, 2012 - 5:57 pm

But privitization is the way to go, at least according to all our GOP friends.

SEAN February 16, 2012 - 6:02 pm

And what was the result? You know the answer, crony capitalism!

pea-jay February 16, 2012 - 11:27 pm

when veolia took over, did they inherit MTA drivers and equipment or is it all company owned?

Nathanael February 19, 2012 - 1:10 am

Veolia hires new drivers at rock-bottom wages, who text while driving (see the Chatsworth rail crash). I wouldn’t ride in a Veolia-operated bus for fear of my life.

I don’t know about equipment.

jim February 16, 2012 - 7:57 pm

Well, once the MTA subsidy was withdrawn, the existing level of service was unsustainable.

Alex C February 16, 2012 - 11:32 pm

Did anyone in Nassau honestly buy their county executive’s idea that somehow reducing their bus funds contribution from $9 million to $2.5 million would somehow allow the same levels of service to continue? If they did, they rather deserve any drastic cuts.

KL February 17, 2012 - 10:16 am

so after 6 whole weeks of analysis they have a firm grip of where the low rider points are? Yea right – these “cuts” were already decided upon before they did the final bidding

ajedrez February 17, 2012 - 10:45 pm

They had traffic checkers back in December and possibly even earlier riding the routes.

In any case, the ridership base on pretty much all the routes is well-established and isn’t really going to change. Plus, they have years of basic cost data from the MTA.

In any case, they also said they’ll be making some additions. They talk about express service into Manhattan, and they might even add some service to other areas. And they say that no complete routes will be eliminated, so they could either cut back portions of the route, or reduce the routes to rush hours only or weekdays only (they’ve already changed the headways, so I doubt they’re going to do that).

In any case, it is suspicious that they’re waiting until the last minute to release the service changes.

Nathanael February 19, 2012 - 1:11 am

I imagine some routes will be cut down to once a day, each way, so that they can say that the route “wasn’t eliminated”.

2B February 17, 2012 - 12:06 pm

I thought I heard somewhere that Veolia was contractually obligated to keep service the same level for the first year or so. I mean, I think we all knew that this would end with service decimation, but even I am surprised at how quickly the ruse is being exposed.

BrooklynBus February 18, 2012 - 10:23 pm

I remember hearing that too.

Alex C February 19, 2012 - 2:37 am

I think what ends up happening is lines being “merged” so no service is actually lost, and some lines ending operations earlier. They say part of the plan is new express buses (in their case, from Nassau to Jamaica, Queens), so I wonder how they will manage to save money there.

Links roundup—transit edition (with champagne cellars, exploding bridges, and executive compensation) « Public Authorities February 22, 2012 - 11:43 am

[…] The private company that took over the MTA’s Long Island Bus service has announced $7.2 million in proposed service cuts. [2nd Ave. Sagas] […]

Jordan October 19, 2012 - 8:54 am

The nice bus company is horrible. Their bus routes are completely wrong they are probably at about an hour apart. Only if there was a way to fix this.


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