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.