Last spring, the riders of Long Island Bus and the taxpayers of Nassau County received some unsettling news: their county-wide bus service was under mounting pressure because of a budget shortfall facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
To address the problem, the MTA proposed to eliminate more than half of the existing Long Island Bus routes and lay off hundreds of workers or have county taxpayers triple their subsidy payments for the system by an additional $26 million. At the time, the county was contributing $9 million annually to subsidize the system (which was combined with approximately $32.5 million from MTA, $54.5 million from New York State, $7.4 million from the Federal government and $43.4 million from fares).
But, the county felt that it was time to take control of the service, which had been operated since 1973 by the MTA, and make it a true Nassau County bus system. The county decided to partner with a private, professional transportation management company, which would have day-to-day responsibility for running the system.
Following a review by a county panel of proposals from interested firms, on June 10, 2011, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano announced that Transdev, had been selected to join the county in a public-private operating partnership to run Long Island Bus, now called Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE), beginning on January 1, 2012.
The county's decision to partner with a third-party bus operator, while retaining control of much of the strategic decision-making control, is a common practice in Europe and in many locations in the US as well. This public-private operating partnership between the county and Transdev is a hybrid approach that applies the best of both the public and private sectors.
Under this arrangement, the county still owns all the assets (buses, garages, transit centers, equipment, etc.), receives all the Federal and State transportation grant funds that it did previously, and retains ultimate policy control over fare structure, routes and service levels. Transdev manages all day-to-day aspects of the bus system agency under contract with the county. Its responsibilities will include operations and service, safety issues, vehicle maintenance, customer care, route design and scheduling, human resources, administration, ridership growth, capital planning, grant administration, communications, purchasing, and other functions.
Nassau chose Transdev because of its proven success with dozens of other transit systems across the U.S. Veolia manages 150 operations in North America and uses a combination of effective scheduling, service design, advanced technology, fuel efficiency, bulk purchasing, centralized administration, and other advantages, to create efficiencies.
This partnership gives Nassau customers the best of both worlds: public sector oversight and control with elected leaders determining policies, budgets and overall direction, with a private sector component that that brings cost effectiveness, efficiencies and the expertise that comes from managing major transit systems throughout the world.