Jack Martins pushes fee revenue for NICE Bus

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State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) wants proposed ride-hailing fees to help fund the Nassau Inter-County Express Bus service.

Nassau County’s bus system should get revenue raised in Nassau from fees tacked onto fares for ride-hailing services if they are legalized statewide, state Sen. Jack Martins said last week.

Martins, an outgoing Old Westbury Republican, said the revenue could help stave off service cuts for the financially beleaguered Nassau Inter-County Express Bus system, which serves nearly 100,000 people a day and is Nassau County’s “only north-south mass transit link.”

“In light of recent proposed cuts, this permanent, recurring revenue would be invaluable to maintaining current service and expanding it in the future,” Martins, a member of the state Senate’s Transportation Committee, said in a statement last Thursday.

The expansion of ride-hailing service such as Uber and Lyft outside New York City was part of a legislative package that reportedly could have been called for a vote this month during a special session in Albany.

But talks to convene one reportedly fell apart last week, leaving the ride-hailing bill and other proposals to rest until the Legislature convenes Jan. 4.

A draft ride-hailing bill would charge a 50-cent fee to riders using the services outside the five boroughs, which would be directed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in counties it services, such as Nassau and Suffolk, Politico New York reported.

Martins says he wants that money to subsidize local transit systems, such as NICE Bus and Suffolk County’s Suffolk Transit, in counties that have them.

Martins lost a bid for Congress last month and is leaving the Senate, so his plan must be taken up by his successor, Elaine Phillips, a Republican and former Village of Flower Hill mayor, who said she will advocate for it once she takes office.

“Every resident I’ve spoken with who depends on NICE Bus for transportation tells me they need service expanded, not cut,” Phillips said in a statement.

NICE Bus, which is operated by the private company Transdev, is set to lose $3.8 million in county subsidies next year under County Executive Edward Mangano’s plan to cut or delay $21 million in county spending, as approved by Nassau’s state-run financial control board.

The bus system’s transit committee earlier this month rejected a plan to cut nine routes, leaving officials to fill a budget deficit that could reach $12 million, Newsday reported. The threat of cuts followed the elimination of some routes early in 2016 until the county provided money to restore them.

Michael Setzer, the NICE Bus CEO, praised Martins’ proposal to give the bus system another consistent revenue stream.

“The essential ingredient for planning and executing good reliable transit that helps build community is predictable, dedicated funding,” Setzer said in a statement.

A Nassau County spokesperson, Connie Petrucci, said Mangano’s Republican administration “looks forward to reviewing the legislation as we finalize our state agenda for 2017.”

County Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), the county Legislature’s minority leader, did not respond to a request for comment.

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