Bus Riders Demand Public “Thank You” from Veolia and Nassau County for Bus Bailout

Garden City, NY

On Tuesday, September 2nd, the day after Labor Day, bus riders and public transit advocates demonstrated outside of NICE Bus Headquarters where the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union released and delivered a “Bus Rider’s List of Demands” in response to the recent decision to increase bus fares to partially fill NICE Bus’ $3.3 million budget deficit. This fare increase comes with no plans to expand bus service.

 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!

My FARE Increase

If YOU could decide, what would you want YOUR additonal 25¢ to go to? 

IMG_4073

Stephanie Sapiie, Professor

That is the question the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union has been asking Nassau bus riders.
On September 1st, Nassau County and NICE Bus will be imposing a 25¢ fare increase on cash paying customers as one solution to help fill NICE Bus’ $3.3 million budget shortfall. Does anyone else smell a bailout? Nassau County and NICE Bus have also agreed to chip in, but do not be fooled by this gesture – the buses have needed more money since 2012 and Nassau has not delivered! To top it all off, with little to no public notice, Veolia (NICE Bus operator) held two virtually INACCESSIBLE public hearings with barely any riders’ present. Without any public support, a fare increase was approved, and Nassau County and NICE bus have decided that bus riders should be the ones to pick up the tab and bail them out.
DSC_0002

Mary Frances, Nassau Community College Student

This (un)fare increase comes with no improvements to bus service, yet riders are expected to pay, and for what?!
IMG_3447

Anonymous Rider, Mother of Three

As a response, the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union launched the “My FAIR Increase” Campaigndemanding that Nassau County and NICE Bus give bus riders a public thank you for bailing them out! Aaron and Kimberly will be visiting bus terminals and bus stops until September 2nd to speak with riders about what they want their 25¢ to pay for (see the pictures). We will deliver these demands to NICE Bus on September 2nd, the day after the implementation of the fare increase, where we will demonstrate outside of the NICE Headquarters (700 Commercial Avenue, Garden City) at 6:30PM. We will also visit Nassau County officials on September 8th at their legislative meeting (1550 Franklin Avenue, Mineola) at 1PM (see flyer below for details).

IMG_4078

Simja Bezalel, Medicaid Service Coordinator for the Disabled

Please join us on September 2nd and the 8th as we tell Nassau County and NICE Bus that if they want our money then they need to listen to US, the riders!
Aaron Watkins-Lopez
Organiser
Long Island Bus Riders’ Union

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

BRU September Actions

 

Nassau County Legislators Ride NICE bus

10257149_627313447344464_1624976999206426171_n DSC_0061 DSC_0059 1901944_627313430677799_475151772469795833_n

This week, Executive Director Anita Halasz and Organizer Aaron Watkins-Lopez rode the bus with Nassau County Legislators Siela Bynoe (LD2) and Laura Curran (LD5) through their districts to speak to riders and find out what the experience for daily bus users is. With the threat of upcoming service cuts due to a $3.3 million deficit, the support of county Legislators is amazing! ‪#‎NICEneedsNassau

Bus Riders’ Union Releases New Report!

good logo OFFICIAL

Bus Riders Union’ Releases Report Calling for Improved Service for People with Disabilities, Reduced Wait time for Buses, and a Fix to the N6

Mineola, NY—The Long Island Bus Riders’ Union released a report today that outlined changes that need to be made to the bus system, according to the bus riding public. The report comes from a public forum that the Union hosted in late February, where bus riders shared their experiences on the buses with legislators and the community at large.

Bus riders have had a variety of experiences, from being stuck on the lift of an Able-Ride bus for a half-hour to Nassau Community College buses overcrowding and threatening the safety of the riders. With experiences like these, on top of a $.25 cent fare hike for Metrocards and a 10% reduction in service hours from 2012-2013, bus riders were concerned.

As one bus rider and member of the Bus Riders’ Union, David O’Donnell said, “We pay among the highest taxes in the country, but our bus system has gotten worse and worse. We talk about low ridership. Why? It’s dysfunctional.”

The report concludes with four recommendations for better bus service in Nassau County:

  • Improve service for people with disabilities by honoring pickup times, fixing audible and visual announcements on buses, and testing wheelchair lifts before they go out.
  • Fix glitches with Metrocards, provide more places for riders to buy them, and allow for riders to pay cash on board.
  • Reduce the 20 minute window for buses
  • Fix the N6!

“The goal of this report is to share bus riders’ experience with legislators and the general public, who might not know what the bus service has been like for riders on a day to day basis. We hope that NICE Bus will work together with us to fix some of these problems, and ultimately look forward to an improved bus system,” said Charlene Obernauer, founder of the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union.

View the report online here.