The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is postponing proposed cuts to Long Island Bus following a pledge by the New York State Senate to fund the service through the end of the year.
The Senate has promised an additional $8.6 million on top of the $52.4 million already allocated to the serve in the 2011-12 state budget. The additional funds will enable the MTA to continue running Long Island Bus service through the end of 2011, at which point Nassau County plans to privatize the service.
Therese E. Brzezinski, director of advocacy and community policy at the Long Island Center for Independent Living, said, “Although we are pleased that New York State government responded to the threat to transportation in Nassau County by finding funds to support it, this is only a band-aid meant to carry us through the first of the year. It does not resolve the problem.”
In March, the MTA proposed cuts that would have impacted 27 of the 48 bus routes in Nassau County and the Able-Ride service that complements those routes. This was expected to impact 16,000 riders.
The MTA board was planning to vote on the cuts at its April 21 meeting and put them into effect in July. Several hundred people spoke out against the cuts at an MTA hearing at Hofstra University in March.
The funds will not reverse paratransit cuts that took place last year, when the transit agency eliminated Able-Ride service to people who live more than three-quarters of a mile from a mass transit station. This is the minimum requirement for service in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Nassau County announced plans to privatize Long Island Bus following an MTA decision to discontinue a subsidy to the service, requiring the county to contribute an additional $26 million per year.
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said, “I remain committed to fostering communication and working with the MTA to ensure a smooth transition as we enter a public-private partnership starting January 2012. This public-private partnership will enable us to provide comparable bus routes at a much more affordable rate to Nassau County taxpayers.”
Brzezinski responded to this plan by saying, “Disability advocates like myself, and individuals in the community - both disabled and non-disabled - remain unconvinced that Mr. Mangano's idea of privatization is the answer. There is no evidence to show that such an arrangement could work for a transit system like Long Island Bus - not without dramatic fare hikes and cuts in service.”
“That would bring us back to square one, with fixed route and paratransit customers always wondering when their rides will be in the cross-hatches once again,” she added.
This article was published in the May 2011 issue of Able News.