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Nassau Announces Private Bidder for LI Bus

Dems express doubts about viability of private partnership deal involving Veolia Transportation.

Nassau Executive Ed Mangano announced Friday that Veolia Transportation would assume control of Nassau County’s bussing operation if the contract – still being negotiated by the county attorney’s office – is approved by county legislators.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority had proposed several options to the county in order to continue to operate the bus system in Nassau. The county currently provides a $9.1 million subsidy to the MTA to operate LI Bus with additional subsidies from the state and federal levels.

“We’ve actually been able to reduce our reliance on taxpayers’ dollars by 35-percent,” said Mark Aesch, outgoing CEO of the Rochester Genesse Regional Transportation Authority and who was retained by the county to oversee the transition, should the contract be approved.

The contract, which would undergo “a very public process,” according to Mangano, would first have to be approved by the County Legislature before being sent to the state oversight board in charge of Nassau’s finances.

According to county officials, the partnership would be at no additional cost to taxpayers, have no fare increase through 2012 and maintain all routes.

“It will provide stability for fares, it will provide stability for taxpayers and it will be a high quality experience,” Aesch said.

The county owns both the buses and the terminal in Hempstead and would continue to do so under the partnership agreement.

Nassau’s decision to sever ties with the MTA in pursuit of a public-private partnership has caused doubts among county Democrats. Legis. Wayne Wink, D- Roslyn, speculated that the private entity would act as a loss leader for a year before requesting additional subsidies from the county or fare increases.

“The only way I can see this working out quite honestly is if Veolia has a greater commitment to the public good than this administration does and I’m hard pressed to find that,” Wink said, flanked by protestors and union bus drivers.

Nassau County Director of Real Estate Carl Schroeter, who oversaw the bidding process, said one of the reasons Veolia was selected was that it would “restore” paratransit service to the handicapped. He added that continuing to use Metrocards on the buses would require negotiation, but they are used with private contractors in Westchester.

An tUasal Airgead June 10, 2011 at 10:49 PM
The day before the announcement, Tri-State released a short report, Why Privatizing Long Island Bus Could Cost Taxpayers More, which examines the track records of the three firms that had been in the running for LI Bus. The experience of other transit systems operated by these firms suggests that a private takeover of LI Bus could cost the county more but mean less service for riders. For example, last year Veolia received a local subsidy of $77 million to operate Phoenix’s bus system, and provided 1.9 million hours of service. By contrast, Nassau County contributed only $9.1 million to LI Bus (with the MTA paying another $25 million) and received 1.2 million hours of service. Veolia previously came under scrutiny because of reported ties to Nassau Republican donor and former U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato. Newsday also took an early look at the company’s U.S. safety record, finding that the company won a safety award in Phoenix, but was dropped in Florida after its shuttle vans were involved in two fatal crashes, and was audited in Georgia after three of its buses caught on fire. http://blog.tstc.org/2011/06/10/nassau-selects-private-firm-for-handover-of-li-bus/
An tUasal Airgead June 10, 2011 at 10:52 PM
WHY PRIVATIZING LONG ISLAND BUS COULD COST TAXPAYERS MORE - Conclusion and Recommendations: County Executive Mangano’s proposal to operate a system using only $4 million in County subsidies is unrealistic and will lead to service cuts, fare increases or the operation of vehicles by untrained and unskilled operators. The private vendors under consideration to run Nassau County’s bus system have shown, through many of their current or former service contracts, that operating a private bus system in Nassau County will only cost local taxpayers more money than what Nassau County could expect under a publicly run system. http://www.tstc.org/reports/LIBusReport_2011.pdf
An tUasal Airgead June 10, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Members of the public and advocates were denied entry to Mangano’s press conference in Mineola. The county executive reportedly said that fares and service levels would be maintained through 2012, but it wasn’t clear what would happen after that. Sources told MTR that some parts of the deal between Veolia and the county will continue to be negotiated through the end of this year. That means it’s unclear what the deal will cost the county in future years. County officials have previously said a private system could be run with county funding levels as low as $2-4 million a year, math which just doesn’t add up. http://blog.tstc.org/2011/06/10/nassau-selects-private-firm-for-handover-of-li-bus/
Gerald Cymbalsky June 11, 2011 at 12:22 PM
This was money making deal for the politicians in my opinion, I said this will happen right after Cuomo was elected, I heard more from insiders at Christmas time, and knew the LI Bus was done deal. And sure enough, Al is part of it.... My opinion , my opinion , my opinion the county sell the new buses cheap for the takover, the new company gets the drivers for 25% wages, and then you run it into the ground after a few years, and walks away at the end of its contract. Then they go back to a public bus system.
An tUasal Airgead June 11, 2011 at 05:03 PM
In its statement, Veolia acknowledged that operating the system with little subsidy "is a big challenge," but possible given the company's low cost structure and commitment to finding savings. Several transportation advocates, bus riders, LI Bus employees and Democratic lawmakers Friday decried the deal. Nassau County Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) said he believes Veolia is willing to take over LI Bus at a loss in the first year, with a longer-term plan to increase fares and demand a higher county subsidy. "As is often the case with this administration, the devil is in the details, and the devil has absolutely yet to emerge," Wink said. - Illinois company to run Long Island Bus Originally published: June 10, 2011 5:07 PM http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/illinois-company-to-run-long-island-bus-1.2947117
An tUasal Airgead June 17, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Only in the bizarre-o world of Nassau County can you have Long Island Bus service on the brink of being slashed in half for people for whom bus service is a lifeline, even as an elite group, funded with millions of federal dollars, looks at ways to create new public transit routes into the Nassau Hub (that shopping and commercial area around the Nassau Coliseum that includes Roosevelt Field) designed to get people to leave their cars at home. What was painfully clear at this particular meeting of the Nassau Hub "stakeholders" was that all that talk about the benefits to Nassau County areas outside the Hub was really just talk. There was no discussion of any proposed north-south routes (beyond some access from the South Shore to the Nassau Hub), beyond the idea of a "feeder" system into the Hub, though there was some mention of the inconvenience of having to make multiple transfers to get to a destination. The main focus is moving buses around the Hub. This is the second public session I have attended and left without a scintilla of practical information about the Nassau Hub project, except for the impression that this is a dog-and-pony show in order to meet the criteria to get that stash of federal funding. Tale of two transit worlds: Nassau Hub versus Long Island Bus June 16, 2011 10:59 am ET Karen Rubin http://www.examiner.com/populist-in-long-island/tale-of-two-transit-worlds-nassau-hub-versus-long-island-bus
An tUasal Airgead June 17, 2011 at 01:49 PM
(cont.) So it is unbelievably baffling to me, as I sat through my second Nassau Hub "gathering" of what are referred to as "stakeholders" (they aren't really public hearings), as to what is the big mystery in how to create mass transportation into and around the Nassau Hub, and what could possibly warrant $8 million in a contract to the consulting company managing this ridiculous process, Jacobs Engineering. Well actually I do know: in order to qualify for federal funding, the County has to do a study of transit "alternatives". And it is taking so long because the Nassau Coliseum redevelopment is still up in the air, even though the planners said that the Hub study is "separate." I had the audacity to ask Jeff Stiles, the lead consultant on the Nassau Hub Transit Alternatives Analysis, why they don't just try out different routes. I mean it is okay that to survey passengers who already ride the bus - you know, "those" people who can't afford a car and use the bus to get to their jobs, to school, to doctors - but the idea (and this is where it gets rather humorous) is to get the affluent people who would much rather drive, to leave their Lexus, their Mercedes, or such in the garage when they go to their season seats at the Nassau Coliseum. http://www.examiner.com/populist-in-long-island/tale-of-two-transit-worlds-nassau-hub-versus-long-island-bus
Gerald Cymbalsky June 17, 2011 at 02:14 PM
@ "An tUasal Airgead" You and I are the only ones reading this. The D'Amato involved, What does that tell you.... This was a done deal when Andrew was elected.
An tUasal Airgead November 11, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Wait until after the election to release the bus contract that contradicts Mangano's promise of no fare increases through 2012 and maintaining all routes. Mangano must go. ---- Cutbacks likely under new LI Bus deal http://www.newsday.com/long-island/transportation/cutbacks-likely-under-new-li-bus-deal-1.3312718?p= Nassau's new private bus operator can eliminate up to six routes in the first half of 2012 and make deeper service cuts if it faces unexpected costs or shortfalls in revenue, according to the contract creating the county's new system, NICE Bus.
Wayne Smith November 11, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Newsday is reporting that in the first year, the LI Bus Deal would cost the county $106 million, vs. an estimate from the MTA of $35 million. Unless there's something wrong with these numbers, this deal doesn't make any sense to me.
James M. November 11, 2011 at 06:05 PM
If you voted republican you voted for more spending with fewer services.
fred November 11, 2011 at 06:48 PM
J, does that mean if you voted Democratic you voted for less spending and more services?
James M. November 11, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Absolutely not.
James M. November 11, 2011 at 07:03 PM
People that voted Democrat probably expected slightly higher taxes, same spending with equal or more services. The Republican MO is spend and borrow without a plan to pay it back.
Jaime Sumersille November 11, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Thanks for the feedback. We'll have more information on the county's contract agreement with Veolia Transportation in this week's Nassau Notebook. Jaime Sumersille Regional Editor, Nassau County
An tUasal Airgead November 11, 2011 at 10:25 PM
For those that don't have access to Newsday online, here is the contract link http://www.scribd.com/doc/72306325/Nassau-Bus-Contract
James M. November 11, 2011 at 11:26 PM
SO what do you think 4 Mangano Cronies and a Democrat Crony making about $100K each plus benefits and pension for about 4 hours of work a week to be on this Bus System Committee. How Mangano likes to add Crony jobs to the budget. If it passes the people losing are the tax payers and riders.
laocoon November 11, 2011 at 11:40 PM
Thank God one less Public Welfare system sucking off the taxpayer. Newsday's numbers, like their news is garbage. This will save the taxpayer big time! Remember that before the Democrats took this system from the private carriers, it made big profits.
An tUasal Airgead November 12, 2011 at 01:28 AM
The MSBA took over for the private carriers in 1973 when they were on the verge of bankruptcy and to improve service. It's called Public Transportation, not Public Welfare. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0F14FD3F5C147A93C3A9178FD85F478785F9