The Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved County Executive Mangano’s public-private partnership for Veolia Transportation to operate Long Island Bus and Able Ride at a savings to the County of more than $32.4 million a year. Veolia Transportation will manage and operate Long Island Bus under a new name – Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) – beginning January 1, 2012. The approved contract maintains current fares and the Able-Ride service area.
The contract preserves the Able Ride service area, for riders with disabilities, for a minimum of three years – unlike the MTA plan which proposed to slash the number of routes. The contract also restores numerous routes that were to be cut under the MTA’s plan for 2012.
Unlike the MTA Board which has only one Nassau County representative out of 22 Board positions, a new Transit Advisory Committee (TAC) will oversee NICE Bus operations. The Committee, comprised of 100% Nassau County residents, is required to host two hearings before any route or fares changes can take place. The TAC will also review Veolia’s annual budgets and quarterly reviews.
A statewide transportation expert submitted testimony before a Legislative hearing last week on the contract, stating that bus service would be run more efficiently under this nationwide transportation firm. In his remarks at the hearing, County Executive Mangano outlined how Veolia Transportation was one of three firms that answered a request for proposals offered by the County after the MTA threatened to leave Nassau’s 100,000 bus riders stranded and terminated their contract to operate the bus system.
“The MTA demanded $26 million dollars more of our money on an annual basis,” Mangano told the packed chambers. “And if we didn’t give them $26 million dollars more of our taxpayer’s hard earned income – the MTA’s plan was to slash bus service. Slash 27 routes. Slash Able-Ride service. That was unacceptable!”
Much of Veolia’s operating budget will come from federal and state government funding and fare and advertising revenue. Veolia will be responsible for maintaining the buses, facilities and other equipment; administration of the system, financial planning, marketing and employee relations. The County will continue to own its fleet and equipment.
“Nassau’s public-private partnership with Veolia symbolizes a new, smarter and more efficient way of providing services in Nassau County. No longer will the choices be limited to demanding more subsidies from taxpayers or slashing service. Today marks a new era of reliable service for riders, job opportunities for employees and reduced costs for local taxpayers,” said County Executive Mangano. “All across this nation, taxpayers are demanding that governments spend less. Nassau County is doing just that. This public sector service will now have a private sector operator to provide a cost effective service. Simply put, Nassau will provide a service taxpayers can afford.”
Also attending the Legislative hearing was Mike Setzer, Veolia’s Chief Executive Officer for NICE, a life-long transit professional who has been in charge of the bus systems in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Veolia Transportation is a leader in managing transit systems for cities and counties in the U.S. and Canada.
“The county’s bus system is a vital transportation link for thousands of riders who use it to commute to work, get to school, visit the doctor, shop or take other important daily trips,” Setzer said. “The mandate for our partnership with Nassau County is to meet the needs and the expectations of the riding public — both current customers and future new customers – by maintaining an affordable, reliable, high-quality bus system.”
Mangano is expected to join Veolia in launching the NICE Bus on January 1st.