Long Island Jobs with Justice Forms Bus Riders’ Union to Fight Cuts
by Charlene Obernaur, Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice
Like many other counties across the Country, in a desperate attempt to close a budget deficit late last year, Nassau County decided to move forward with the privatization of one of its most vital resources: public transportation. Veolia, a Paris-based multi-national corporation, proposed a contract that included service cuts upon takeover and called for very little public oversight of the process.
Recognizing that the service would be threatened under privatization, Long Island Jobs with Justice formed the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union in early January to fight back. After months of meeting with riders, the Long Island Bus Riders’ Union released a set of demands for better service in Nassau County at a on Tuesday, February 21st. (Read coverage of the event here: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/nice-bus-unveils-money-saving-changes-1.3547661)
Our Demands include:
1. Maintain constant supply of bus schedules at terminals, bus stops, and on buses
2. Maintain multi-lingual communication and audible announcements to riders
3. Maintain "Request-a-stop" Late Night service on NICE Bus, as existed on the LI Bus
4. Expand late-night and Sunday Service and maintain off-peak hours
5. Stabilize fares at $2.25 for NICE and $3.75 for Able-Ride for five years
6. Restore routes cut by the MTA and implement no service cuts
After our Press Conference, Veolia CEO Mike Setzer "agreed with the [the Bus Riders' Union's] recommendations and [is] working to address them." We are relieved to hear that our Report, From Privatization to Discrimination, is being taken seriously by Veolia and that Mr. Setzer is willing to take our recommendations into consideration.
At the community meetings yesterday, we were pleased to note that a Spanish translator was made available for Spanish speaking riders. We welcome the support of NICE bus in implementing our proposed changes, and we hope to be able to work with the company as the process continues.
But what about the service cuts? We are calling for better service in Nassau County because we believe that bus riders deserve better service. The recent service cuts, particularly those that involve cutting all weekend and evening service and decreasing the frequency of routes; will have a drastic impact on some Nassau County bus riders. 60% of all routes are impacted by the changes. Veolia needs to acknowledge that riders will be profoundly (and negatively) affected.
Nassau County is not unique. All across the country, local governments are trying to find ways to stretch dollars. But saving a dollar today by cutting public transportation is not a long-term solution to a budget deficit. A healthy economy needs a healthy public transportation system. If Nassau County were to increase its subsidies into NICE bus and actually support bus riders, we could be making a safe investment, not just for people who take the bus, but for the millions of Nassau County residents who rely on bus riders.
For more information and to keep up with the Long Island Bus Riders' Union, visit their blog: http://www.longislandbusridersunion.org