Testimony at Nassau County Legislature
May 16, 2011
Good morning. My name is Ryan Lynch, senior planner of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional policy watchdog organization working for better transit and transportation policy in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
While we are thankful that the New York State Senate has given Long Island Bus and Able-Ride users and workers a reprieve in 2011 with $8.6 million in funding, we remain gravely concerned about the long-term viability of Nassau County’s bus system.
As you know, Nassau County and the MTA have been unable to arrive at an agreement for the long term, and at the behest of Nassau County, the MTA formally ended the lease and operating agreement for LI Bus late last month.
Instead, County Executive Mangano has proposed a privatized model for its bus transit system, a model he believes can be run on as little as $4 million a year. Put bluntly, the County Executive is dreaming. No public bus system of this size can operate in this manner, and all receive heavy public subsidies. For example, Westchester County’s privately run bus system, a system comparable in size to LI Bus, receives no MTA funding and is subsidized by over $30 million a year from Westchester County. Even in Nassau County, it currently costs MTA LI Bus over $8 million a year just on natural gas and diesel fuel alone.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign continues to believe that the best outcome for Nassau County is a negotiated settlement with the MTA. We further believe that County Executive Mangano is failing to acknowledge the true costs to Nassau County taxpayers if he continues down his path to privatization. Not only could taxpayers be responsible for an increase in subsidies to a private bus operator, but we also believe they would be susceptible to:
Unfortunately, we cannot conclusively assess the total cost to Nassau County taxpayers because the County has stonewalled our attempts to receive information from numerous FOIL requests claiming that disclosing information would be detrimental to contract discussions. However, is difficult to imagine any circumstances where the county’s position would be impaired by disclosure. The parties have already submitted their initial proposals and the time to submit proposals has closed. A disclosure of the parties’ proposals could easily enhance the county’s position, because public scrutiny could point out waste or defects.
Tri-State believes that a robust public process, more than just a hearing at the Rules Committee or Full Legislature, is necessary in order to answer these questions and to accurately understand the system being proposed by the County Executive. Over 100,000 riders a day deserve this, as do the millions of taxpayers in Nassau County.