Bus link to L.I. in doubt as MTA cuts Nassau funds

By Philip Newman

The MTA rescued Nassau County’s bus service in 1973, but the financially strapped agency says it can no longer afford to foot the bill.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board made it official when it voted April 27 to end its $26 million annual subsidy to Long Island Bus, which provides nearly a dozen routes linking Nassau County with such Queens localities as Jamaica, Flushing and the Rockaways.

Nassau County, with financial woes of its own, now plans to privatize its bus service early next year but may have to cut back on service for the nearly 100,000 daily riders.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who recently called for MTA Chairman Jay Walder’s resignation, deplored the MTA’s decision.

“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,” Mangano said after the MTA vote.

“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 Nassau County committee has been looking at bids from at least three companies offering private bus service and hopes to make a selection within weeks, according to Katie Grilli-Robles, press secretary in the Nassau County executive’s office.

Any decision will require approval by the Nassau County Legislature.

In any case, the MTA agreement with Nassau County will expire Dec. 31.

Transit advocates and some elected officials have expressed concern that any private bus operation might result in higher fares, less service and inadequate service the thousands who can afford no other mode of transportation. The MTA had recently told Nassau County it would increase its contribution to operating the bus company by $26 million.

Long Island Bus was founded in 1973 as the Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority by combining 10 privately chartered bus companies in Nassau County when it appeared the system neared collapse.

The line covers 475 square miles of Nassau and western Suffolk counties as well as destinations in eastern Queens, linking 96 communities, 48 Long Island Rail Road stations, five New York City Transit subway lines, malls, colleges, museums and beaches.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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