While both Nassau County and Veolia contributed financially to offset the budget shortfall, many bus riders, like Kimberly Saget, felt it was unfair for them to pay more without seeing improvements in service.
“I work hard for the money I have. Knowing that NICE bus is taking more money but not giving anything in return is frustrating. If NICE wants to keep riders happy, taking our money and not improving service is not the way to do it,” said Saget.
Aaron Watkins-Lopez, Organizer with the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union expressed a similar frustration.
“Once again, Veolia and Nassau County are looking to us, the riders, to bail them out. Our concerns and requests are reasonable – we want affordable and accessible service and we want to be part of the decision-making process,” said Watkins-Lopez.
The Nassau County Bus Transit Committee held public hearings where bus riders were given the opportunity to provide their input. The two scheduled public hearings were held during normal business hours – 2pm and 5pm – when many bus riders are at work and unable to leave. Many riders, like Nassau County Community College professor and bus rider, Stephanie Sapiie, felt that rider’s concerns have fallen on deaf ears in the past and wants NICE Bus and Nassau County to finally add riders in to the decision making process.
“Bus riders are only asking for a say in the decisions that affect their commutes and working-lives. We think that NICE Bus should not only listen to bus-riders but should also incorporate our needs into decisions made about service, routes and fares,” said Sapiie.
Cindy Tropeano, a former MTA and NICE bus driver, expressed her concern with the future of the bus system in Nassau County.
“I’ve seen the profession I love deteriorate tremendously in the last two and half years. Veolia has brought down the standards and quality of Nassau County Bus,” said Tropeano.
With the rising cost of fares, service cuts and changes, and late buses, bus riders are forced to take more expensive, and sometimes less safe, modes of transportation.
“I really wish there were more n49 service at night especially after midnight. I used to pay cab $10 from work one-way, now I pay $13 with tip every night. I may have to consider getting a new bike to ride to and from work if this keeps up,” said Long Island Bus Riders’ Union member Richard Clolery.
“We need stronger financial oversight when it comes to matters of this size. We hope that the Nassau County Legislature and Veolia can devise a system that will prevent budget shortfalls and that the County can identify a steady funding stream so that bus riders do not have to endure fare increases like this again,” said Anita Halasz, Executive Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice.
Included in the list of demands were the following: keep fares affordable, use fare increase money to improve and expand service – not to fill budget shortfalls, invest in routine trainings for drivers, add a bus rider and community advocate to the Bus Transit Committee, make future public hearings accessible, and issue a public “thank you” to bus riders for paying more to fill the budget deficit.
To see the News12 story check it out here
To check out our List of Demands download them here