Long Island Bus To Privatize

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On Jan 1, Long Island Bus will change its name to NICE, and get a new look.

(New York, NY - WNYC) Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano held a press conference in a Garden City bus garage to announce that Veolia Transportation, a private company, will assume operations of Long Island Bus from the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority on January 1.

On that day, the bus service's name will be changed to "NICE," an acronym for Nassau Inter-County Express. The buses will also sport a new orangey look (see photo above).

Mangano says the move will reduce Nassau's yearly subsidy to the service from $9 million, which it was paying to the NY MTA, to $2.26 million. He said Veolia would keep fares the same in 2012, which is not a savings for riders because the NY MTA wasn't planning on raising them. If Veolia wanted to raise fares after that, Mangano said the company would need approval from a new 5-member Bus Transit Committee made up of Nassau County residents.

Veolia would keep the line's 48 routes, at least to start. But Mangano said efficiency of service might mean "consolidating" routes in the future.

"Veolia's responsibility is to continue to run an efficient bus service, monitoring routes and ridership so there's no waste," Mangano said. "Minimize waste, maximize efficiency--that's how we keep bus service affordable here in Nassau County."

Mangano said the contract between Nassau and the company has been sent to the county legislature for approval. It was not provided to the press or public. Beyond assurances that Veolia can run the line more efficiently than the NY MTA, it is unclear how the company will turn a profit on such a relatively small subsidy.

It is also not yet known whether riders will be able to pay with a Metrocard, as they've been doing, or if Veolia will have to institute a new payment system. And Nassau County riders who cross the border into Queens could lose the free transfer to a NY MTA bus that they currently enjoy. Mangano said the county is negotiating with the NY MTA to maintain both arrangements.

Patricia Bowden, president of Transport Workers Union Local 252, talked to reporters after the press conference. She said her members--bus drivers, dispatchers, mechanics and others--face uncertainty in the switch from the NY MTA to Veolia. She added that the union offered to work with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to help manage the transition, but were rebuffed.

"Ed Mangano did not sit down with us," she said. "To this day, he ignores Transport Workers Union Local 252. We haven't even seen the contract."

Bowden said she expects privatization to thin the ranks of the 981-member workforce and that workers will face cuts in benefits.