UPDATED Tens of thousands of bus riders in Nassau County, Long Island in New York, are gearing up for changes in the Nassau Inter County Express bus service, known as NICE bus service, some of them unwanted.
Ryan Lynch with the advocacy group Tri-State Transportation Campaign said the service cuts will be a hardship. “Service will be reduced one way or the other, on 60-percent of the entire system. That means some people may lose entire service on Saturdays or midday service.
When Nassau voted to privatize the service, officials said Veolia would keep the line’s 48 routes, at least to start. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said at the time efficiency of service might mean “consolidating” routes in the future.
The company running the service, Veolia Transportation, defended the changes, saying it went to great pains to trim only bus service that was least used.
Michael Setzer is the CEO of NICE, part of Veolia. He said the company eliminated some trips that “are not useful to the public.” “We’ve spread out the distance between buses on a few routes, but we’ve also made the schedules more consistent with actual traffic conditions, so that buses will be on time, “ said Setzer.
Veolia also said that some of the changes will actually help riders get where they need to go more efficiently. Two new express routes have been added, one line that goes from Hicksville to Jamaica, the N6, will now run express. Another bus line that was eliminated a few years ago, that serves Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Center, has been reinstated.
NICE is the Nassau County-owned bus system. From the 1970s until January of this year, it was operated by the MTA. The Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously last December to hand over bus service, to Veolia Transportation, to operate the system under a private-public partnership agreement. So Veolia is the operator, but the county continues to own the assets, like the buses.
The county was $7-million over budget and Veolia agreed to come up with a balanced budget by April of each year. To do that it is scaling back bus service.