Testimony of Kate Slevin
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Public Hearing on Long Island Bus, Hofstra University

March 23, 2011

Good afternoon. My name is Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization working for more sustainable transit and transportation policy in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Sometime this summer, at least 16,000 bus riders in Nassau County will lose their bus service because the MTA and Nassau County Executive Mangano have not reached a funding agreement to run Long Island Bus’ 48 routes and Able-Ride. These cuts will further compromise the rest of the system and the 100,000 daily riders who rely on it.

An affordable and reliable transit system is a public good, and ones that supports a healthy economy and environment and reduces traffic congestion. Just as the government subsidizes roads and bridges and the price of gasoline, it subsidizes public transportation.

County Executive Mangano has countered with a privatization proposal to end its relationship with the MTA. The County believes it can get the same level of bus service from a private operator for a $2 million price tag. Simply put, County Executive Mangano is dreaming. LI Bus was created in 1973 because of the failure of the private market to adequately provide good bus service on Long Island at reasonable fares. By privatizing now, County Executive Mangano is proposing to bring LI Bus, currently one of the largest and most efficient suburban bus systems in the country, to the heydays of 1970s transit.

Let me make this clear -- no other system in the country does what Mangano wants to do. Most county governments with private systems provide much more in the way of government funding, not less. For example, Westchester County’s bus system, which provides service for roughly the same amount of riders as Nassau County, pays almost $33 million a year for its privatized service. And, for this price they get 175,000 fewer hours of service than LI Bus. Suffolk County pays $24 million a year and their bus service is 1/6 the size of Long Island Bus. County Executive Mangano is simply wrong in saying that a private system with $2 million in funding would be more efficient and effective.

It is time to get serious about the situation, County Executive Mangano. You are threatening the livelihoods of thousands of your constituents. You are threatening thousands of jobs, students’ ability to get to school, and seniors’ ability to get to doctors appointments. You must come to the rescue before it’s too late.