PCAC Testimony – April 21, 2011 – LI Bus Operating Agreement

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Testimony of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA

Before the MTA Bus Operations Committee, April 21, 2011,

on the Proposed Resolution to Authorize the Termination of the Lease and Operating Agreement Between the County of Nassau and MTA LI Bus effective December 31, 2011

April 21, 2011

My name is Jan Wells.  I am the Associate Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.  The PCAC was established by the State Legislature to serve as the coordinating organization for three rider councils created by the state in 1981.

My comments here today are directed to the proposed resolution put before you to terminate the lease and operating agreement between MTA LI Bus and the County of Nassau.  This termination is the result of Nassau County’s declared intention to transfer the provision of service to a private operator at the end of this year, 2011.

We have expressed our concern, both at the public hearing held March 23rd at Hofstra University and in writing to elected officials, about the preservation of the current level of service that 100,000 riders using LI Bus and Able-Ride paratransit so desperately depend on.  We have been clear: the PCAC is strongly opposed to any action that will destroy a vital link to work, school, and health care for those in Nassau County with limited resources and few other transportation options.

This current proposal to authorize the termination of the operating agreement with Nassau County seems at best premature; and at worst, a recipe for disaster.

The Board should not be voting on a scheme that currently has no real foundation and no backup plan in the case of operational and/or financial difficulty.  What happens when, for whatever reason, the so-called privatization plan fails to work; or results in cuts in necessary routes; or fares have to be dramatically increased?  The riders will again be stranded: Either the service that they need will not be there; or they will not be able to afford it.  And, if the private operator fails to perform, will LI Bus become an orphan and dumped back into the MTA Board’s lap as an emergency measure?  This proposal is one that could set the stage for a future transit crisis.

Before terminating this agreement, we need to make sure that there is a long-term solution to maintaining comprehensive bus service in Nassau County.  The financial needs are a challenge but not impossible.  Elected officials must find the permanent necessary resources to assure that LI Bus will have a secure future – for the riders, for the economic health of Nassau County and the region.

PCAC implores the Board to hold off on this decision.  Do not approve this proposal until firmer plans are made and there is adequate provision for the challenges that lie ahead.

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