Mineola, NY - Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos released an audit of the Nassau Inter-County Express Bus (“NICE”) services, operated by Transdev (formerly known as Veolia Transportation), covering the period of 2012/2013 and found a significant decline in Fixed Route service levels and certain critical performance measures that were not maintained. Customer satisfaction dropped to 30%, pass-ups increased by nearly 40% and on-time performance was not measured at all. Additionally, the contractually required performance comparisons with the prior operator, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), were not performed. At the same time, ridership declined by 1.4 million, a nearly 5% drop. However, Able-Ride performance generally improved. There were no issues found in cash and financial management. The NICE Bus system budgets increased from $113.7 million in 2012 to over $127 million in 2015.
“Transdev has fallen short of its commitments to provide improved bus service to our residents,” said Comptroller George Maragos. “In fact, service appears to have declined and many of our residents appear to have been left at bus stops waiting in the cold. This is unacceptable! Transdev management needs to immediately take steps to improve service.”
Pass-Ups refer to when a bus has reached capacity and has to bypass a scheduled bus stop. Exhibit 1 below shows that Fixed Route Quarterly Pass-Ups increased by nearly 40 percent from Q3 2012 to Q4 2013. They had spiked up over 100% during the winter of Q1 in 2013 from the low point in Q3 2012. In their response Transdev explained, “that Pass-ups are, in most cases, a symptom of demand exceeding capacity where an individual bus is unable to accommodate any more passengers safely. Pass-ups become an issue on the top routes where peak demand exceeds capacity. Although some customers experience pass-ups, it is worth noting that in most cases this means that they simply must wait additional time to board the next available bus. As part of the new interactive bus technology, a new Automatic Passenger system will be on every bus. This system will provide valuable data as to where we are experiencing overloads; the information will be used to mitigate some of the overload issues through day to day operational procedure changes and in future scheduling changes.”
Overall Customer Satisfaction Scores: The Overall Satisfaction of Fixed Route service had decreased significantly on a year-to-year comparative basis, remaining close to 30% during 2013. Exhibit 2 below shows the Fixed Route Overall Customer Satisfaction scores steeply declined by as much as 50 % from Q1 2012 to Q4 2013 and by over 100% compared to the highest levels reached the previous year. In their response, Transdev explained that “beginning in late 2012, Transdev began the process for a large system-wide upgrade of interactive bus technology which includes the ability to monitor on-time performance. The new system will be fully operational before the end of 2015. Additionally, current service levels (capacity) does not allow for additional ridership growth on many routes. Growth, with the current level of funding, may actually add to rider frustration by increasing pass-ups, and crowded buses on the fixed route.”
Decline in Ridership: From the last year of the MTA in 2011, when ridership reached 30 million, there has been a decline of 1.4 million (4.7%) in Fixed Route bus ridership. Veolia officials stated “that the decrease in ridership was primarily due to service adjustments instituted in April 2012, the March 2013 Metro Card fare increase, and Super Storm Sandy (October 2012).”
“Transdev has taken too long to respond to the dismal customer satisfaction ratings and the decline in ridership cannot be blamed on lack of funding capacity,” said Comptroller George Maragos. “Transdev was aware of the funding levels when it committed to improved services and actually received generous funding increases every year. The technology improvements proposed will not be sufficient to reverse the performance. Better management and more performance improvements will be required.”
Effective January 1, 2012, Veolia began operations of the Long Island Bus System (“LIBS”) under a new name, Nassau Inter-County Express. Effective August 2014, Veolia Transportation Services, Inc. changed its name to Transdev for its North American business unit of Transdev International. LIBS was previously operated by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority from 1973 until 2011.
NICE serves over 100,000 riders daily and operates 52 routes and more than 5,000 bus stops with a County-owned fleet of 308 forty-foot Compressed Natural Gas buses and 111 Paratransit vehicles. There are three County-owned operating depots located in Mitchel Field, Rockville Centre and Stewart Avenue; one passenger facility in Hempstead; and one intermodal facility in Mineola.