(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) After running Long Island Bus for nearly 40 years, the MTA voted Wednesday to end its contract with Nassau County to provide the service.
The agency said it made the move because it has had to cover an increasingly large share of the costs, and it will cease responsibility for the bus service by the end of the calendar year.
The MTA and Nassau County had been negotiating for months about how much the county should contribute to the MTA. On Wednesday, the MTA board said it wanted to give Nassau County as much lead time as possible — in this case, eight months — to prepare to assume responsibility for Long Island Bus.
"To take care of the riders of Nassau County, the MTA has provided $140 million, which has not been provided to the riders of Suffolk County, Westchester County, Dutchess County, Rockland County, Orange County, Putnam County and the City of New York for the bus systems that we took over," said board member and Suffolk County resident Mitchell Pally.
"I think it's clear to say that the only people who have been protecting the riders for the last 10 years in Nassau County is this board, not Nassau County."
But Nassau County executive Edward Mangano took issue with the MTA's decision — as well as with who owes whom.
"It's a sad day in America when a government agency such as the MTA chooses to maintain its bloated bureaucracy over the services it is charged to provide its residents," he said in a statement released Wednesday. "Because the MTA has failed taxpayers time and time again, Nassau County will move forward with a public-private partnership that maintains bus service without demanding an additional $26 million from taxpayers. ... The MTA's monopoly over transportation in Nassau County ends now."
A spokesperson from Mangano's office said that plans for privatization of Long Island Bus are underway. A committee is reviewing bids from three private companies and is expected to provide a recommendation to the county executive by May 15.
Any recommendation would then have to be approved by the state legislature. The spokesman said that a new operator will be in place by January first.
Long Island Bus carries about 95,720 383,000 riders each weekday and serves 48 routes.
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