Budget Woes Force MTA To Cut More Than Half of All LI Bus Lines

More than half of all LI Bus lines will be eliminated under planned service cuts. Image: Newsday.

Nassau County’s unwillingness to pay for its own buses is ending in disaster for Long Island Bus riders. The MTA has announced that it plans to cut 25 of the 48 LI Bus lines and axe weekend service on two more.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” said the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Ryan Lynch. He noted that as eight percent of Nassau County households don’t have access to an automobile, many of LI Bus’s 106,000 daily riders will be left without any way to get around. “They’re going to be stranded,” he said. “They’re going to lose their jobs. They’re going to have to drop out of school.”

According to Lynch, the routes selected for elimination generally have the lowest-ridership in the system. Some communities, such as Bethpage, Elmont, and Lindenhurst, will be left entirely without bus service.

These extremely deep cuts come because the MTA decided it could no longer continue to offer Nassau County a special deal on its bus system while the recession and Albany raids were battering its own budget.

Nassau County pays less for its bus system than Westchester or Suffolk County, and is the only one to receive MTA subsidy. Image: Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

For the last decade, Nassau County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, contributed only $9.1 million a year to its bus system. The MTA covered the more than $25 million deficit that created, something it doesn’t do for any other suburban bus system. “Nassau County had a really good deal for a decade,” explained Lynch. “The MTA is in financial straits and they felt that they couldn’t support it anymore.”

After years of wrangling with Nassau County, the MTA finally decided that it could no longer afford to provide a special subsidy for Long Island Bus. Nassau County didn’t step up to replace the lost funds, forcing the current cuts.

Nassau County hasn’t publicly made any significant move to increase its funding and restore service, said Lynch. Their only plan so far has been to somehow privatize the system without providing any subsidies and take a cut of the farebox revenues, a plan Lynch said doesn’t add up.

When residents call the county and urge them to increase their contribution, said Lynch, “They tell them that it’s the MTA’s problem. They don’t think it’s their responsibility to fund the bus system.”

Given the magnitude of the cuts, said Lynch, “It’s time for Governor Cuomo and Senators Skelos and Fuschillo to step in and show they care about Long Island bus riders.” Particularly given the fact that both the Senate majority leader and transportation committee chair hail from Nassau County, Lynch said, Albany needs to either provide state funds to keep LI Bus running or help negotiate a settlement.

Lynch said a public hearing on the changes is scheduled for March 23.