From the Desk of Legislator Judi Bosworth:
Our Nassau County bus system has been officially privatized. Although I had been calling for public hearings for the past year and a half, last Monday was the first opportunity the public was given for their voices to be heard at the county. There were many who came out to express their reservations about County Executive Mangano’s proposal to transfer the management and operation of Long Island Bus from the MTA to a private operator, Veolia Transportation. Prior to that time, I had the opportunity to hear the community’s trepidations and convey the concerns of the 10th L.D. when I testified at the MTA hearing and participated in the “People’s Hearing” sponsored by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and others. Many residents testified that they could not afford to lose their bus service, nor pay more in fares.
Over 100,000 riders a day rely on this system as their sole means of transportation to get to work, school, medical appointments or to visit friends or family. The loss or disruption of bus service in Nassau County would severely impact the lives of thousands of people and would be another blow to our fragile and recovering local economy. In fact, I was gravely concerned earlier in the year when the MTA had actually proposed cutting the Great Neck routes entirely and raising fares before privatization became a topic of conversation.
Like the hundreds of members of the public who attended the county hearing, my fellow Democratic legislators and I had serious questions and concerns about the terms of the contract with Veolia as well as the lack of transparency and limited public input in this review process.
In his meetings with the County Executive and Presiding Officer Schmitt, Minority Leader-Elect Kevan Abrahams, on behalf of the Democratic Legislators, fought for and obtained the following major concessions to the Veolia agreement:
• The Able Ride para-transit system, which serves disabled riders, will remain at current service levels for the next 3 years, rather than two.
• Language will be written into the contract that will guarantee no changes to fares and routes for one year. Before Veolia can make any changes to service or fares they must conduct an open and transparent public participation process.
• Two public hearings must be held, one during the day and one at night, before any changes can be implemented. No changes can take effect until 45 days after the last hearing.
I believe these amendments to the contract will provide a higher level of service to current LI Bus riders and provide an increased layer of financial protection to the County as we work to balance the budget. They will assure that the service in the 10th Legislative District and throughout the county continues and that fares will not increase for one year. We will closely monitor the way in which Veolia operates this bus system and will hold them accountable for all their actions.