The Village of North Hills is planning to reduce the cost of its shuttle bus service for village residents who commute to work on the Long Island Rail Road by using a smaller bus for the daily service.  

Village of North Hills Mayor Marvin Natiss reported at last week’s village board meeting that the shuttle carried an average of 24 riders during peak usage over the past several months – less than what the village had projected.

So he said he’s making arrangements with Long Island Limo to replace two 20-passenger buses now shuttling village residents from North Hills Village Hall to the Manhasset train station and back for free with two 14-passenger buses. 

Natiss said that while the shuttle is not getting the usage anticipated those who are using the shuttle like it. He said to preserve the village needs to make it more “cost-effective.” 

“The people who are using it love it,” Natiss said. “It’s still not getting the use we hoped.”

The service cost the service $250,000 over a six-month trial run that began in July, Natiss said. He said using the smaller buses will reduce costs by approximately $1,000 per month. 

Two shuttle buses have been carrying commuters to the Manhasset train station from the North Hills Village Hall in shifts between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. each morning. The shuttle then picks up North Hills commuters at the Manhasset station and drop them off at the respective morning pick-up locations between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 

Shuttle buses had also been picking residents up and dropping them off at Christopher Morley Park, but that part of the service was discontinued in December due to lack of use.

Before the service started, Natiss said between 250 and 300 residents indicated in a village survey that they would use the shuttle service. But residents’ usage of the shuttle hasn’t come close to what the survey indicated.

Natiss said the village would promote the shuttle with a mailer to residents. Long Island Limo has agreed to share the cost of the mailer, he said.

Natiss said he’s also asked that resident identification cards issued to those using the commuter service be checked regularly. The practice of checking the IDs apparently has not been consistent and residents have reported non-residents riding the shuttle. One resident at Wednesday night’s meeting said a car with West Virginia license plates has been parked in the shuttle space outside Village Hall recently. 

“We want to make sure the people using the shuttle reside within the village,” Natiss said.

In other developments:

• The village board tentatively scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 20 for presentation of a revised site plan for The Residences at North Hills condominium complex from Ritz-Carlton. 

Village attorney A. Thomas Levin said Ritz- Carlton has been seeking assurance prior to a public hearing that proposed changes to its 244-unit site plan will be acceptable to the board.

“They want an approval before they get an approval,” Levin said.

“They were told it’s not going to happen,” Natiss said.

North Hills Deputy Mayor Dennis Sgambati said he is concerned that the external appearance of the condo buildings may vary from what the board approved.

“What we approved is not what it’s going to be,” Sgambati said. 

Natiss said an initial plan for the condo was approved by the village board several years ago. But a “bad market” has prevented Ritz Carlton from proceeding with the project. 

Now he said, the company is seeking to reduce the number of buildings in the complex and increase the number of units in each building.

“In order to reduce costs, they wanted to make a few minor changes,” Natiss said.  

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