LONG ISLAND FEDERATION OF LABOR, AFL/CIO

NEW YORK PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP

LONG ISLAND JOBS WITH JUSTICE

TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION, LOCAL 252

LONG ISLAND PROGRESSIVE COALITION

TRI-STATE TRANSPORTATION CAMPAIGN

NEW YORK COMMUNITIES FOR CHANGE

VISION LONG ISLAND

For immediate release: May 16, 2011

Contact: Ryan Lynch, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
(631) 742-7528

 

Groups Urge Greater Oversight and Public Process For Long Island Bus Privatization

Mineola, NY—Transportation, civic, planning, labor and community development groups gathered outside of the Nassau County legislature today to demand a robust public process around County Executive Mangano’s proposal to privatize Long Island Bus.

Faced with stonewalling by the Mangano Administration on details of the private vendors' plans for one of the nation’s largest suburban bus systems, the groups, which included the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL/CIO, Long Island Jobs with Justice, Transport Workers Union—Local 252, New York Communities for Change and the Long Island Progressive Coalition called for greater transparency over the public process and urged the County Executive and Legislature to support public hearings that went above and beyond the required hearings in the Rules Committee and the Full Legislature.

The groups expressed concern for the future of Nassau County bus service after repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) were rebuffed by the Mangano Administration. The FOIL requests were issued after it became increasingly clear that County Executive Mangano’s proposal to operate Nassau County’s bus system on only $4 million a year in County subsidies could threaten the levels of service and fares, quality of labor and safety existing today.

Existing levels of LI Bus service are supported by a $9.1 million subsidy from the County, $26 million in subsidies from the MTA and approximately $50 million in subsidies from the State. Compared to the similarly sized Westchester County system, which receives approximately $30 million a year in local subsidies, the groups believe County Executive Mangano's vision can only lead to severe service cuts or dramatic fare hikes for the over 100,000 riders a day.

The groups said the need for a more transparent process became even more important when a recent Newsday investigative report showed close ties to one bidder, Veolia Transportation, and the fundraising activities of County Executive Mangano.

“Nassau County taxpayers, bus riders and employees deserve a full accounting of the plans on the table,” said Ryan Lynch, senior planner and Long Island coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional transportation policy watchdog. “The lack of information available from the County, and the stonewalling by the County Executive’s Administration, does not bode well for riders and employees of LI Bus.”

According to the County’s Request for Proposals, the County has authorized a private vendor to include initial fare hikes of up to 20%, potentially raising the fares to almost $2.75 per trip, and periodic increases if the private company sees fit.

"We fear that students will be left in the dark about the fate of their commute, as only vague details of Nassau County's plan to privatize Long Island Bus have emerged," said Jason Chin-Fatt, field organizer at NYPIRG — a student-based research and advocacy group. "County Executive Mangano must shed some light on the issue and allow the public an opportunity to comment on the plan."

“The lack of information available from the County, and the stonewalling by the County Executive’s Administration, does not bode well for riders and employees of LI Bus,” said Lisa Tyson, executive director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “This lack of accountability should be a red flag to the riding public and to Nassau County taxpayers.”

In addition to greater transparency, the groups called on the County to jumpstart negotiations with the MTA, which until last month had been under contract to operate the County’s bus system.

"Our research has shown that none of the private companies that Nassau County is considering will be able to adequately serve the needs of the riders or the community as a whole," says Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of Long Island Jobs with Justice. “Nassau County needs to recognize that the best financial deal over the long term it will receive will be from a publicly operated system like the MTA.”

Expecting an announcement of the preferred vendor in the coming weeks and months, the groups also released a document outlining the core principles of what any Nassau County bus system should look like, including the same fares and levels of service that exist now, highly skilled and qualified drivers to ensure a safe, modern and efficient system, and the transparency that they called for today.

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