Long Island Bus riders and workers said they got angry when they were forced to wait more than two hours on Monday for a public hearing on a contract with Veolia Transportation, Inc. that would privatize Nassau’s public bus system. The crowd that convened at the county Legislature building catcalled at legislators to get under way and booed at County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican from Bethpage, when he addressed the Legislature.
“Let’s get the facts on the table,” Mangano said, struggling to get his words out over the yelling.
The county executive offered a singular message –– he believes the contract with Veolia is a better one than that offered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Mangano said the new contract would save about $32 million annually. The MTA had demanded an additional $26 million subsidy, on top of the $9 million it already received from Nassau. In the 2012 county budget, $2.6 million is allotted for the new bus system.
The proposed contract outlines the maximum obligation that the county would owe to Veolia to fund the system. The county would pay a fixed annual fee and a variable fee based on the number of hours that buses run. The combined maximum payment ranges from $106 million next year to $131 million if the contract is extended to 10 years. Potential funding sources include federal and state grants, fares and advertising revenue.
“It is a better choice,” Mangano said of the Veolia contract. “It is a practical choice, and quite frankly, the MTA gave us little choice.”