In yet another aggressive move to protect working families and seniors who rely upon Long Island Bus for transportation to work, school and medical appointments in the greater Elmont, Franklin Square and Floral Park communities, State Senator Jack Martins called on Governor Cuomo in a letter and related community concerns and possible actions related to protecting bus routes, fares and transfers for riders of LI Bus.
Martins letter to Governor Cuomo outlined his concern over the 100,000 plus riders of the bus and the necessity for stable service.
“Everywhere I go, people are talking about the issue of LI Bus and the impact that any cuts to service, fare increases and transfer losses will have in the greater community,” said Senator Martins noting, “what people do not realize is the fact that LI Bus is a critical part of family, community and business stability locally.
The letter from Martins to Cuomo is personal and touches upon Martins family immigrant background and the role of services like Long Island bus has to working families and young people.
In the letter, Martins notes Cuomo’s own family story of coming from Italy to the US. He noted that it has a similar ring to that of the Martins family who came from Portugal and realized the same American dream. “That story can be told again and again locally from families who came from Haiti, Jamaica, Italy, Ireland, Central America, Nigeria and throughout Europe. The fact is, the services of Long Island bus help families and provide opportunity” said Martins.
Nassau County is currently in negotiation with Veolia private bus service to take over LI Bus routes throughout Nassau County. The privatization of the bus service has proven to be controversial locally with hundreds speaking out at citizen forums and signing petitions.
The move by Senator Martins was built on his previous public statements of his strong personal support of Long Island Bus and an infusion of $7 million dollars of funding secured by Martins and Senator Chuck Fuschillo to keep bus service running as it faced a countywide shutdown. The state funding secured by the Senators saved bus service routes from being cut.
Local observers and countless bus riders have protested the privatization of LI Bus. Those protests came to a crescendo a few weeks ago during a “Citizen’s Hearing” for riders of Long Island Bus at the Ethical Humanist Society in Garden City. During the meeting, a bipartisan group of legislators heard from bus riders about their concerns over service, transfers and cutting of routes and fare increases. Senator Martins attended the hearing and spoke from the floor about his concerns over Long Island Bus’ status and stated his personal support of the “Long Island Bus Riders Bill of Rights.”
“I totally agree with communities and bus riders in this situation. We can’t cut routes, increase fares and eliminate transfers. People need stability and a public transportation system that fits our greater needs,” said Senator Martins.
Martins specifically asks Governor Cuomo the question of “what happens” if the County’s contract is not ratified. Martins specifically noted in his letter the fact that “contained within the 7th Senate district are individuals and communities that rely heavily on Long Island Bus’ current routing service. Our residents use the bus to transfer to the Long Island Railroad and New York City subways and buses. In addition, there are thousands of college students that need bus service to get to school.”
Martins states clearly, that having no bus service “is not an option” and that, “bus service is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
“There’s no question that this issue cuts right to the heart of our greater community,” said Senator Martins noting, “we have to do all we can to insure that bus riders are protected and that cuts to service, fare increases and cutting transfers never sees the light of day.”
In Senator Martins letter to the Governor, he also outlines the economic impact to communities from cuts to Long Island bus as well. “Studies indicate that every $1 invested in public transportation generates $6 in local economic activity,” said Martins in the letter to the Governor.
“When you look at Franklin Square, Elmont and Floral Park you realize that LI Bus service is indeed an economic issue as well. Go up and down Hempstead and Jericho Turnpike and you realize that riders shop locally, go into stores, spend money and give our downtowns life,” said Senator Martins.
Quality of life issues and local community impact are also touched upon by Martins in his communication with Governor Cuomo. “The fact is public bus service enhances personal and economic opportunities by allowing people to get to jobs, go to school, visit friends, go shopping, or go to a doctor’s office. It saves money and eliminates congestion and pollution by reducing the need for more cars on our roads. It creates more livable communities by stimulating the development of economically stable downtowns.”
The County’s negotiation with Veolia transportation has been shrouded by secrecy. Local news reports on television and in newspapers outline Veolia’s management not giving any assurances to riders about route cuts and fare increases. In addition, a job fair for bus drivers was held leading many community leaders to believe that bus drivers and support would indeed be cut.
Senator Martins does offer suggestions in his correspondence to the Governor that centers around the new chairmanship of the MTA. Specifically, Martins asks the Governor to consider with a new chairman, administration of LI Bus by the MTA in a way that would restore commitment residents need and deserve. In addition, Martins states that he believes that, “there are social, economic and environmental impacts that transcend the modality itself and speak to the needs of individuals and individual communities. Government has an obligation to ensure that these needs are not ignored.”