Nassau lawmakers unanimously approved a deal on Tuesday that would privatize county bus service and hand over the contract to a transportation outfit that was recently put up for sale.
Legislators voted 18-0 in favor of abandoning public bus service despite loud opposition from residents and transit workers at a public hearing on December 5.
In addition, one day after the hearing, Veolia Transportation—the company selected to take control of bus service—announced that it was being sold off by its parent company, leaving riders to wonder who would actually be running the buses in coming years.
Last week, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano scrambled to take another look at the other private companies that had been involved in the bidding process, but, in the end, the contract with Veolia was approved by the legislature without so much as a whimper of dissent.
Democratic legislators were apparently mollified by several small-scale changes recently made to the agreement.
Incoming minority leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Democrats agreed to the deal after the five-year contract was amended to include three conditions: fares would not be increased for a year; Able Ride, the transit service for disabled riders, would not be reduced for three years instead of the originally proposed two-year period; and future fare increases or route changes would require two public hearings before a five-member transit committee made up of Nassau residents and a 45-day waiting period.
One year without fare hikes, wow.
Rider fears aside, the deal could also cause problems for the approximate 800 Nassau bus workers, and there’s certainly the possibility of a strike on January 1 if the company and union workers can’t reach an agreement.
Patricia Bowden, the head of Local 252 Transport Workers Union, told Newsday, “My members have nothing. No hospitalization, nothing…I hope my members will work.”
The deal still needs to be approved by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), which is oversees county finances.