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A sign of thing s to come?


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Originally published: March 16, 2011 10:07 PM

Updated: March 16, 2011 10:12 PM

By ALFONSO A. CASTILLO alfonso.castillo@newsday.com

Nassau County officials say they will turn over Long Island Bus to a private operator and end their relationship with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has run the financially beleaguered county bus system for nearly four decades.

The announcement came as County Executive Edward Mangano Wednesday outlined cost-cutting measures that include slashing the county's annual contribution to LI Bus by more than half, from $9.1 million to $4.1 million.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the cut is an indication of the county's plan to privatize its bus operation. Nassau will receive "best final offers" from three bidders on Monday and will choose from them over the next few weeks, he said.

"The county has decided that funding the MTA's bloated bureaucracy is simply unaffordable for taxpayers," said Nevin, adding that the county's goal is to turn over its bus system to a company that can offer better service and be more efficient than the MTA.

The county must give the MTA 60 days' notice before ending its agreement with the transit agency. Nevin said the county will request a date to meet with the MTA to discuss the matter.

"The bus system belongs to Nassau County and we respect the county's decision to privatize the system," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

Earlier this month, the MTA announced plans to eliminate more than half of LI Bus' 48 lines, blaming inadequate funding of the system's $140-million annual budget from Nassau. The proposed cuts to 27 routes would affect about 16,000 of LI Bus' 100,000 daily riders, and come less than a year after the MTA axed 11 lines.

Advocates for maintaining the MTA's operation of LI Bus have said it is unlikely a private c ompany will be able to offer comparable service for less money. But Nevin said one private bidder has said his company would need just $2.1 million to run the county's system. The county owns the fleet of about 300 buses.

Nevin said it is unclear whether privatization would result in fare hikes or service cuts. The base fare now is $2.25.

Because it is not known when a private operator would take over LI Bus, MTA officials said they still plan to hold a public hearing Wednesday at Hofstra University about the proposed service reductions, which would take effect in the summer.Ryan Lynch,

spokesman for the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said he worries about the lack of accountability by a private operator, which could hike fares, cut service and compromise safety without the checks and balances of the MTA.

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Several issues raised here:

  • From the drift of the article, Nassau County apparently has the authority to withdraw from the MTA. I doubt that, say, McHenry County could withdraw from our RTA (heaven knows that is sure wants to).
  • This would also seem to require the legal means of sorting out ownership of the buses, which one would presume belong to the MTA rather than the county. This is a similar issue to New York City owning the buses given to the franchise operators it was subsidizing, but once the takeover by the MTA was proposed, said that further purchases by MTA Bus Co. would be made by the MTA.
  • The drift of the article also indicates that Nassau County is, in effect, contracting with MTA to provide the service. That would be similar to the brouhaha about Pace being the contractor with regard to Oswego service.
  • As compared to some local government contracting with some other body to provide the operation, the situation with CTA and other than the Pace contract routes is that the transit authorities operate the service directly. I am sure that based on provisions in the union contracts with regard to "farming out," Pace couldn't turn over the South Division, for example, work over to a contractor.

In the days when CTA management was especially inept under Kruesi, I suggested that management itself be turned over to some firm like First or MV. However, because of the union contract problem, the union workers would still probably be public employees.

So, if the title implies that you are asking if this is likely to happen in NE Illinois, no.

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