Cuts To Long Island Bus Service Could Draw Civil Rights Lawsuits

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This letter was published in Newsday on July 21 in response to an editorial about the privatization of bus service in Nassau County.

The attack on public transportation across the country is an attack on working people, particularly low-income immigrants and people of color. In the United States, 84 percent of transit agencies are facing service cuts, fare hikes and privatization.

As Nassau County privatizes Long Island Bus, which will inevitably result in an increase in fares and a decrease in quality of service, people who are the most economically disadvantaged will pay the highest price.

Public transportation ridership is largely dependent on income, especially in suburbs like Nassau County. Immigr ants are more likely to have lower incomes than their native-born counterparts, and, hence, are twice as likely to use public transportation.

For example, Hempstead has the largest Latino population in the county at 44.21 percent, and the largest population with limited English proficiency, 40 percent. In Hempstead, 32 percent of the population uses Long Island Bus to get to work or school.

Across the country, advocates are suing cities and private transportation companies for violating the Civil Rights Act. If Veolia Transportation implements the kinds of service cuts and fare increases it did in Columbia, S.C., Phoenix, and elsewhere across they country, it could very well face similar lawsuits.

Charlene Obernauer is the executive director of Long Island Jobs with Justice, a workers’ rights advocacy organization

Image courtesy of Adam E. Moreira via Wikimedia.


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