MTA proposes putting the brakes on many LI Bus routes

(03/02/11) HEMPSTEAD – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to cut more than half of Long Island Bus routes this summer in an effort to close a $400 million deficit.

Out of Nassau’s 48 bus lines, 25 could be eliminated, leaving entire communities such as Great Neck and Elmont without bus service.

County Executive Ed Mangano (R-Nassau) says since the county owns the buses and the terminals, maybe now is the time to privatize the system.

Mass transit expert Lisa Tyson, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, says the service cuts could force 16,000 bus riders to drive, increasing congestion on local roads.

Public hearings on the Long Island Bus cuts are scheduled for March 23 at Hofstra University.

If approved, the proposed cuts would go into effect in July.

Nassau Contracted Health Care Workers Win Full Raise

Written by Elizabeth Lanza Friday, 06 August 2010 00:00

Legislature Hears Employers’ Protest – Dismisses Plea

On July 26, a special session of the Nassau County Legislature was held to vote on the one dollar per hour salary raise promised to home health care workers employed by agencies that have contracts with the county, as per Nassau’s Living Wage Law. After debating a bill to put off the raise, legislators voted to leave the increase intact as scheduled for August.

In 2006, the Living Wage Law was unanimously passed by the Legislature. The law provided for a phased-in salary increase from $9.50 per hour to $12.50. The last one dollar increment had been scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 1, however, there has been much opposition from health care employers, who claim that the increase in cost will be unmanageable for them, and will result in layoffs.

Responding to this plea from the health care employers, NC Legislature Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt introduced a bill to delay the pay increase, allowing the employers to make their case before the Legislature. The bill proposed a raise based on the consumer price index or CPI, which would be about 18 cents as opposed to the mandated one dollar. It also proposed a six-month moratorium on the full Living Wage increase. This extra time was meant to allow the health care industry time to address problems they have been saying they experience at the state level that they say make another increase unbearable. The complaint is that New York State has been cutting what it pays the companies while also adding new taxes and costs to operation.

Presiding Officer Schmitt told Anton Community Newspapers, “I introduced this bill because of the disgraceful way the State of New York has turned its back on Long Island, with MTA cuts, the MTA payroll tax… now these home companies have had their reimbursement rate cut by the state while our cost to them is going up… That is a premise for discussion. They said no one else is listening. So, we let them make their case.”

The current living wage for Nassau contracted employers is $13.10 an hour or $11.50 with health benefits. On Aug. 2, this rate has been scheduled to go up to $14.16 an hour or $12.50 with benefits. Although an increase of only $1 does not seem like a lot to some at the hearings, representatives that testified on behalf of the agencies said that this increase would translate into a major problem.

Bob Callaghan, for instance, a representative of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers, a trade organization advocating for providers, testified that the 35 county approved agencies serve about 3,000 families and employ about 5,000 people. Callaghan and others speaking on behalf of employers, spoke to the idea that with an increase in salaries there would be ramifications and jobs lost.

However, both Democratic and Republican legislatures said that they needed specific details on exactly how many jobs would be lost if they went ahead with the increase. Legislators indicated that the agencies failed to come up with the concrete numbers they were looking for, and this swayed Monday’s vote to keep the raise as scheduled.

“We gave these providers one last opportunity to make their case that hardship would result from an increase. They failed,” Schmitt said after the hearing. “Everyone on the legislature agreed that they didn’t do it. There was no specific example of ‘agency x will turn back this number of county contracts,’ or ‘agency y will lay off this many workers.’ So we rejected the item and the wage goes into effect.”

Legislator Diane Yatauro, who serves as the Democrats’ minority leader, fought hard to make sure that the raise would go into effect, saying, “We are talking about hardworking people who earn approximately $22,000 per year performing tasks that most of us would shy away from. Keeping this one dollar commitment was not going to place anyone in jeopardy. It was simply the right thing to do.”

Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, testified at hearings and spoke out against the bill that would put the raise on hold. Tyson said, “The Nassau County Legislature did the right thing. Workers who do work for the county have been living on poverty wages and desperately deserved the raise. The health care companies should not balance their budgets on the back of workers. We thank the Legislature for doing their research and proving that the increase will not result in layoffs.”

Bob Callaghan expressed frustration on behalf of the health care employers, who he believes did make a sound case. He told Anton Community Newspapers after the hearing, “We are definitely disappointed. I thought we did a fairly decent job presenting our bottom line to the Legislature. We included a graph that showed pro forma that the business model doesn’t work with this increase.”

Callaghan believes the decision came down to politics. “They just didn’t want to hear it,” he said. “I think that between the sensationalism and the vocal union participation, it was a lot easier to just walk on this one.”

He added that the local health care industry should “weather” the pay increase but layoffs could be coming. Smaller agencies will be impacted the most, he said. But, many might qualify for a waiver from the Living Wage requirements.

“We’ll probably see a lot of waiver applications quickly coming in,” said Callaghan. “Agencies are considering other strategies open to them in order to avoid layoffs. I haven’t heard specifically yet of anyone turning in contract or laying folks off at this point. But that could be down the road a little bit.”

Schmitt said after the hearing that as a result of this experience, he will not support future pay mandates, sharing, “I am not passing any more automatic increases unless they are [based on the] cost of living. It is wrong to dictate specific dollar amounts for the future when you don’t know what the future holds.”

Groups oppose MTA's plan to yank funding for LI Bus

Updated: Jul 23, 2010 07:30 PM

A coalition of civic, transportation, business, labor, planning and environmental groups is opposing the MTA’s plan to pull its funding from Long Island Bus.

In a statement issued Friday, the coalition said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ‘s plan to withdraw about $40 million in funding from the Nassau County-owned bus company is misguided and a “system killer.”

“The MTA’s proposed cuts will obliterate the LI Bus system as we know it,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign , which supports bus service. “These cuts could very well mean that Nassau County will not have a viable bus transit system as soon as the next few years.”

MTA officials said this week they can no longer afford to make up the deficit it says is created by Nassau’s low contribution. Nassau County contributes $9.1 million toward LI Bus’ $133-million annual budget.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has said the county cannot afford to substantially increase its subsidy to the system. He says the county is paying the MTA more than ever as part of a newly created payroll tax.

The groups called on the MTA to retract the proposal, and for Mangano and state elected officials to work together to find a long-term solution to the bus agency’s funding problems.

“If ultimately LI Bus would cease operating, it would have a devastating effect on the business community in Nassau and Queens County as well as their workforce,” said Daniel R. Perkins, vice president of government affairs for the Long Island Association business group. “Let’s hope that the MTA, the state of New York and Nassau County can work together to find a solution so that doesn’t happen.”The Regional Plan Association, Long Island Progressive Coalition, the smart-growth group Vision Long Island, and the Long Island Federation of Labor AFL-CIO , also joined in decrying the MTA’s plan.

Mangano has said he is exploring the possibility of privatizing LI Bus, which serves more than 100,000 riders a day.


New York— A coalition of civic, transportation, business, labor, planning and environmental groups joined together to oppose MTA cuts to Long Island Bus.

In particular, the groups called the MTA’s proposal to eliminate its funding contribution entirely to Nassau County’s LI Bus system a misguided attempt to balance its budget and a system killer.  If enacted, thousands of bus riders would be left with no alternative to get to work and school, possibly forcing riders to pay for expensive taxis or lose their jobs. 

“The MTA’s proposed cuts will obliterate the LI Bus system as we know it,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.  “These cuts could very well mean that Nassau County will not have a viable bus transit system as soon as the next few years.”

“But the MTA is not the only entity at fault,” continued Slevin. “Nassau County and the State are not living up to their obligation to fund Long Island Bus and ensure riders have affordable and reliable transit service.”

She noted that Nassau County is contributing half as much as it was in 2000. Both the County and State cut support last year resulting in the service cuts that were implemented in June. 

LI Bus serves over 32 million riders a year, over 100,000 riders a day, and is an integral cog in Nassau County’s transit system, fostering economic development, reducing congestion and protecting the environment.

The groups called on the MTA to retract the proposal, and for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and state elected officials to work together to find a long term solution to Long Island Bus’ funding problems.

“If ultimately LI Bus would cease operating, it would have a devastating effect on the business community in Nassau and Queens County as well as their workforce,” said Daniel R. Perkins, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Long Island Association. “Let’s hope that the MTA, the State of New York and Nassau County can work together to find a solution so that doesn’t happen.”

“Yet another moment of crisis offers us the opportunity to rethink the way that bus service is delivered and paid for in the metropolitan region,” said Bob Yaro, President of Regional Plan Association. “The current inefficient and fragmented bus system should be consolidated into a single Regional Bus Authority, as was recommended by the Ravitch Commission. Until then, the MTA and Nassau County need to come up with solutions that don’t leave riders stranded.”

Eric Alexander, Executive Director of Vision Long Island said “Brainstorming can be a useful tool. However, some ideas have unintended consequences for the health and economic well being of working Nassau County residents. This is one idea the MTA should scratch from their list.”

“This is outrageous. This is a very short sided proposal. Long Island roads will be plagued by horrible congestion and people are not going to be able to get to work. The MTA cannot balance their budget problems on the backs of Nassau bus riders,” stated Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

“For thousands of working people in Nassau County, Long Island Bus is irreplaceable,” said John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “It is essential for the economic health of our region that a viable transportation system is available for people who need it.”

“These service cuts will impact over 100,000 Long Islanders who commute to and from work,” said Sarah Lansdale, Executive Director, Sustainable Long Island.  “The idea is an unrealistic approach to help funding woes that the MTA faces. The people of Nassau County deserve better, they deserve available mass transit that is safe and affordable.”

Sources: Compromise plan may keep LI Bus rolling

Updated: Jul 20, 2010 07:09 PM

While the MTA does not plan to set any money aside to fund Long Island Bus in the future, agency officials may be willing to keep the system moving temporarily if Nassau County shows a commitment to stepping up its financial support for the ailing bus company, transit sources said Tuesday.

Transit sources said Monday that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority intends to withdraw all financial support from Long Island Bus in its 2011 budget. Long Island Bus is owned by Nassau County but largely subsidized by the MTA.

Without the $40 million that the MTA usually kicks in – roughly a third of LI Bus’ budget after fare revenue – experts say the system could afford to maintain only sparse service, or it could cease to exist altogether.

But transit sources said Tuesday that the MTA may soften its stance if Nassau agrees to a schedule of increased subsidies over the next several years that would eventually lead to the county covering the full $40 million.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has not said whether he would consider increasing the county’s subsidy to Long Island Bus, but has noted that, when including the state payroll tax enacted last year to support public transportation, Nassau is paying more than it has in years to the MTA.

Until about 10 years ago, Nassau County made up the difference of Long Island Bus’ budget after fare revenue and state aid. But over the years, the county has gradually decreased its subsidy. Last year, Nassau cut its subsidy for the bus system from $10.5 million to $9.1 million.

The MTA has made up the difference for years, but has said that in its current economic crisis, which includes an $800-million budget deficit, it can no longer afford to do so.

While Nassau may look to the state for help in paying its share, Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), who chairs the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said the request would come as several other counties, which receive far less state aid for their bus systems, are also looking for help.

New York State contributes about $44 million a year to Long Island Bus. Suffolk gets about half that for its bus system, and no help from the MTA.

“They do better than any other county in the state,” Brodsky said of Nassau. “I just think other counties are starting to ask why they have to pick up the burden of their own system, plus Nassau’s.”

Lisa Tyson, executive director of the nonprofit Long Island Progressive Coalition, said it would be “irresponsible” for the MTA and Nassau not to reach a resolution.

“Nassau County would shut down without the bus system,” Tyson said. “With the amount of cars it takes off the roads and the amount of people it brings to jobs, it would clearly devastate the county.”