A budgetary game of chicken between Nassau County and the MTA threatens the livelihood of the 100,000 daily riders who rely on Long Island Bus to get to work, school and medical appointments, according to Democratic lawmakers calling for a resolution to the stalemate.
The critics gathered Monday at the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center to urge County Executive Ed Mangano to broker a deal with the state transit agency, which is planning deep cuts in the bus system. As an alternative, Mangano has proposed privatizing the buses, a move critics suggest is not realistic.
“To this day we have not seen one shred of evidence that…Long Island Bus can be privatized,” said Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead). “The proposal simply does not work.”
The county has been considering three private operators to take over the county owned and MTA operated bus system since last summer, when the MTA said it would no longer contribute $24 million to the county’s share of the $136 million bus budget—the rest of which comes from fares and state funding.
“This is exactly why we have to consider these service reductions,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. “We can no longer operate at the status quo.”
The MTA is considering discontinuing service on 27 of 48 routes and nixing weekend service on two other lines, a move that would also impact Able-Ride, a transit system for the disabled that is linked with fixed LI Bus routes. The move would impact an estimated 15 percent of the ridership.
“It’s shameful that the MTA once again plans to eliminate service for our disabled and most vulnerable residents,” Mangano said in a statement. He described the privatization plan as a “public-private partnership” that would also offer para-transit bus service.
MTA officials will host a public hearing on the proposed cuts in two weeks. The MTA board is expected to make a decision at its April 27 board meeting.
Nassau paid $9 million last year and budgeted the same this year to LI Bus. The MTA wanted Nassau to pay its full $24 million share, a move Mangano was unwilling to do. The MTA had been paying part of the county’s share of bus funding for the past decade.
A source said the county had proposed contributing $15 million, but the MTA declined that offer. But even that would prove difficult since a state watchdog panel recently took over Nassau finances due to an anticipated $176 million deficit—a move that is currently in litigation.
The LI Bus cut hearing will be held Weds., March 23 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Hofstra University’s Adams Playhouse. For more information call 718-521-3333.