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Old 12-15-2010, 12:49 AM
sean sean sean sean
Location: Wellsville, Glurt County
2,845 posts, read 10,183,120 times
Reputation: 1407
I voted for "Option C", but I can't really get behind any of them 100%

I think a lot of government services could and should be privatized, but public transportation will always have to be at least partially subsidized by taxpayer money no matter how efficiently they operate or how little their employees are paid. I might be slightly off on this, but I remember reading somewhere that the only mass transit system on the planet that operates solely on it's own revenue is the Tokyo Subway....ONE out of hundreds of thousands worldwide. So with that in mind, I doubt it would be possible to find private investors willing to commit to something like this and able to make it work. Even if there was some kind of arrangement where a private company actually ran the service but was allocated tax funds, I doubt there would be enough margin of profit to make it worth their while.

Shut it down? No way. I can't imagine the world crumbling around us like Johninwestbury describes were that to happen (people would start stealing cars cuz they couldn't ride the bus?? hahahaha.....OK), but the service it provides is a more worthy "good" than defeating the "evil" of it's ludicrous operating cost would be, IMO. John does make a valid point, however, that by keeping more cars off the road it's benefiting the county as a whole, and not just the small segment of population that legitimately depends on it as their sole means of transportation. Of course, the amount of traffic congestion it's preventing is minimal when compared to NYC Transit or even the LIRR, but I believe that LI Bus ridership is high enough that it would make an immediate and noticeable difference were it shut down, especially in western Nassau.

I also agree that one of the primary reasons why bus service in Nassau is underutilized is because the schedules and routes are in dire need of a redesign. Most lines do stop at LIRR stations, but rarely if ever arrive any time close to when a train does. For about a week or two earlier this year my car was out of commission and I had to get to Freeport a couple of days a week for work. The process of taking the bus to the train to another bus itself was actually kind of pleasant. Fresh air, exercise, etc.....but it turned a 10 minute drive into a hour and a half journey! There was a 20-30 minute layover between transfers at each point and the buses were never once on time. Either very late or very early.....and if you miss one your options are A) wait an hour or B) do a lot of walking. I ended up taking a cab ($50 a day) more often than not. I've gotta believe that with even just some minor tweaks, the MTA could be covering a decent portion of their budget. There are so many LIRR stations where parking is a major issue. A lot of people who commute from those are already walking further from their car to the station than they would be from their home to the local bus stop....but that's not an option for them because the schedules don't work. It's mind boggling that this is somehow an untapped source of revenue.

On the other side of this whole thing, YES - like every other arm of the MTA, and for that matter essentially every government agency in New York State, LI Bus is a major fiscal disaster. Although the cost is still relatively small compared to other, more well publicized cases, it is still very real and very negative for the residents of Nassau County. I know certain people like to tout Virginia as a model for how New York should do everything, so let's take a look at how a similar suburban public bus company manages to not squeeze it's service area dry down in the Commonwealth.

Here are some very basic 2009 accounting charts for both MTA Long Island Bus and Hampton Roads Transit. I know literally nothing about HRT and little about the area it serves, but on paper it is essentially identical in size, structure and scope of service. Daily ridership, rolling stock, population served, miles traveled, service hours and number of routes are all within 10% of LI Bus. The big differences that jump out at you are, of course, OPERATING EXPENSES - which are broken down into 4 categories. For our purposes, we can just think of them as two, since categories 2-4 ("Materials & Supplies", "Purchased Transportation", & "Other Operating Expenses") are all similar and deal with non-human costs, whereas category 1 covers "Salary, Wages & Benefits".

Here is the Reader's Digest breakdown:
-LI BUS: $128,525,707 (100%)
-HRT: $74,479,805 (100%)

-LI BUS: $26,741,378 (20%)
-HRT: $31,359,623 (42%)

-LI BUS: $101,784,329 (80%)
-HRT: $43,120,182 (58%)

I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Maintenance costs? Pfft...a mere 20% of the budget, and $5 million less than a comparably sized system in Virginia. Purchasing new vehicles? LI Bus spent $0 on them in 2009. Redundant, overpaid administrative positions? Sure....they're part of the problem, but when we're talking about $102 million dollars a year it puts in perspective how much more bloat is out there than a handful of six-figure pencil pushers. You can talk about what people "deserve", what you think "is fair" and "tough jobs" or "agendas" all day, but if you think your taxes are unreasonably high and would like that to change, then looking at something like this (and the breakdown is the same for all other government agencies) should really drive home where the problem is and what is needed to fix it. This is the bottom line, beyond all the sentimental BS and emotions and opinions: You can't pay people Don Draper money for doing Ralph Kramden jobs.

So I don't think it would be good for Nassau to lose bus service, and I doubt that will happen, but the "alternative" is just as unappealing. The only good that can come out of this is hopefully making people sit up and take notice, and realize that Long Island is slowly sinking into it's own black hole bottomless pit of taxes. We're only at the expensive part right now....and that's bad, but things only get worse from here. Once it truly gets ugly, it'll be too late to turn back. Look at the systematic deterioration of any American metropolitan area and it comes back to the same thing, 9 times out of 10.
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