Mon, 07 Mar 2011

Officials push to avoid bus service cuts - Newsday

Officials push to avoid bus service cuts
Originally published: March 7, 2011 2:54 PM
Updated: March 7, 2011 9:38 PM

Democratic elected officials from Nassau Monday implored Republican County Executive Edward Mangano to come up with enough money to stave off the MTA's planned decimation of Long Island Bus.

At a news conference at the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center, Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), Judy G. Jacobs (D-Woodbury) and Judi R. Bosworth (D-Great Neck) joined with other local elected leaders and community organizers to plead the case for LI Bus' 100,000 daily riders, who face losing more than half of the county's bus lines in July.

"At the end of the day, the person who's going to be impacted the most . . . is going to be the person who has to wait for hours for a bus, if it even comes," said Abrahams, as dozens of bus riders watched in the busy transit hub.

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said last week the cuts were necessary given Nassau's inadequate financial support of the county-owned service. MTA officials said they would need about $24 million more to continue existing levels of service.

The Democrats urged Mangano to find at least $5 million more this year to put toward LI Bus, and to commit to making similar increases over the next several years.

"If we show the MTA a good-faith effort, there's no question that there are people there willing to help," Jacobs said.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said Monday that the MTA is still extending an offer "to work with the county" to a point where the county "would eventually meet its funding obligations."

Nassau contributes $9.1 million to LI Bus' $140-million budget.

In a written statement, Mangano said he would not allow "the Democrats to hike property taxes on homeowners to fund the MTA's broken bus system that wastes our tax dollars."

Mangano has said the county was still considering turning over the bus company to a private operator if one could run the system more efficiently.

Speakers at Monday's news conference said the county already has the money to fund LI Bus, if it chose to make it a priority.

Ryan Lynch, spokesman for the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said the county rejected his group's detailed proposal on how to fund the bus system, which included using money from newly increased parking fees at some facilities.

Bosworth also proposed selling ads that wrap around county buses as a means to generate new revenue.

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