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From the Desk of The Nassau County Executive: November 23, 2011

Combining Quality Bus Service With Fiscal Responsibility

Last spring, when the MTA threatened to eliminate more than half of the Long Island Bus routes, lay off hundreds of employees and hit our taxpayers with another $26 million in subsidy payments – I joined thousands of outraged taxpayers in saying, “Enough is enough!”

On January 1, 2012, Nassau County will make history when we take control of our own buses, turning Long Island Bus into the NICE Bus - Nassau Inter-County Express. This marks a new era of efficient bus service for riders and lower costs for taxpayers. Residents will save $32.4 million annually.

Across the nation, local municipalities and transit agencies are making dramatic service cuts and layoffs, hiking fares and increasing the burden on taxpayers. Instead, here in Nassau, we found a more affordable, professional transportation operator to jointly modernize Nassau’s wasteful system.

Change and reforms are never easy, especially as well-funded special interests seek to skew facts and hamper savings. However, I am committed to getting more out of every dollar. Nassau’s approach will retain bus service jobs than the “doomsday” plan of the MTA; it will protect routes that are essential to getting tens of thousands of people to their jobs and maintain the Able-Ride service area that was threatened by the MTA.

A little about Nassau’s NICE Bus operator – Veolia has proven success with dozens of other transit systems across the U.S. and its experience in successfully partnering with other municipalities and transit agencies. Veolia manages approximately 150 transit operations in North America, including Boston, New Orleans, Denver, San Diego, Baltimore, Phoenix, and the suburbs of Atlanta, Washington, DC and Toronto.

Nassau’s NICE Bus system will be re-designed utilizing the best practices of the transportation industry, including intelligent scheduling, data-based service design, advanced technology, fuel efficiency, bulk purchasing, and centralized administration.

The approach in Nassau is new and has been successfully implemented in Europe and in many regions in the U.S. that have first class public transportation systems. You need only look to Suffolk County, which also operates a system in which the county government contracts with private partners to run their bus system.

Formerly, the MTA – with only one representative from Nassau County – determined the amount of money residents and riders would pay in subsidies and fares. Now, Nassau County will have local oversight and control – with a bus transit committee comprised of 100 percent Nassau County residents – with a private sector component that that brings cost effectiveness, efficiencies and the expertise of a transit management leader.

The steps we have taken today will protect taxpayers, riders, and employers by ensuring that an accountable, strong, countywide bus service continues into the future.