Bus Wars Leave Nassau Riders Worried

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Nassau County is suing the MTA after the agency proposed the county pay more to keep Long Island Buses running. (Published Thursday, Jul 29, 2010)

    Nurse Joy Wright waited for her daily bus ride to work and wondered how long those buses would keep running.

    "If you cut bus service, what are you doing to us?" asked the Hempstead resident, as she sat at a terminal near her home. "The bus is a lifeline.  If you work and live on Long Island and don't drive, you rely on the bus."

    A hundred thousand people ride Long Island Bus each day but, the Nassau county-owned bus line still loses millions each year, according to multiple sources..

    The county and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the bus line, are now feuding over who should cover those financial losses.  Without an agreement, Long Island Bus could be forced to shutdown.

    "We're not going to take it anymore," said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, as he unveiled a lawsuit against the MTA.

    The suit challenges the constitutionality of the MTA's payroll tax.  It  was announced a day after the cash strapped MTA proposed that Nassau county pay more to fund Long Island Bus - as much as a hundred million dollars over four years.

    "it's not going to happen," said Mangano. "Nassau residents don't have a hundred million dollars to shove into their bloated pockets."

    An MTA statement countered that "it's a shame Nassau County is using a lawsuit to distract attention from its failure to fund its bus system."

    Nassau County is obligated to pay for bus line deficits, according to sources familiar with a state agreement; but, the MTA has covered most of those costs ($140 million in all) over the last decade.

    A number of surrounding counties, like Westchester, have criticized the MTA's subsidy of Nassau's bus line.  Those counties get no such help from the MTA.

    "I think Nassau should have to pay its fair share," said transit workers union representative Pat Bowden, who stood with Mangano as he announced the lawsuit.  "But the two sides should sit down and negotiate."

    Riders agreed something must be done to keep the buses operating.

    "if they take the bus away, how do I get to school?" said Descha Presley of Amityville.

    "Without the bus, I will be stranded," added Josh Probert of Jericho.