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Despite troubled service, commuters rejoice at return of N1 early bus

The N1 will have an additional 6:45 a.m. bus that begins at Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road and heads south to the Long Island Rail Road station in Gibson.
The N1 will have an additional 6:45 a.m. bus that begins at Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road and heads south to the Long Island Rail Road station in Gibson.
Ronny Reyes/Herald

The morning commute for Elmont and Valley Stream residents used to be simple. More than a decade ago, they could hop aboard the northbound N1 bus and ride to the Jamaica subway station, or the southbound line to the Valley Stream Long Island Rail Road depot. Like so many other local residents, Yvonne Andrews, 54, depended on the N1’s 6:45 a.m. bus to the LIRR to get to her job in Manhattan on time.

Four years ago, however, the early bus was cut, and riders were left to fend for themselves. The earliest available bus, at 7:45 a.m., ran too late for residents to rely on to get them to work at 9 a.m. Andrews said that people had to get creative and use ridesharing services, or walk a half-hour to the train station.

“I’ve had to use Ubers, taxis or get a ride from a friend who would drive me to the LIRR,” Andrews said. “We were always try to figure out how we were going to get there because being late to work wasn’t an option.”

Now, after two years of lobbying the Nassau Inter-County Express bus service, Andrews and County Legislator Carrié So-lages got the 6:45 a.m. bus reinstated, beginning on Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road and dropping riders off at the LIRR station in Valley Stream.

Solages explained that he had received dozens of complaints about the loss of the morning bus. According to the Long Island Index, which tracks local demographic trends, more than 25 percent of Elmont and Valley Stream residents depend on public transportation. Solages added that the N1 had among the highest ridership numbers in the NICE bus system, which allowed it to be spared from elimination in 2017, when several cuts were made throughout the system.

Andrews said that residents who want to go to Green Acres Mall, LIRR or N4 transfer on Merrick Road need the N1. But she and other riders described the service as lacking and “completely off schedule.” Dale Gangaram, 39, of Valley Stream, called the N1 a perpetually late bus. Even though the morning bus has been reinstated, Gangaram said he still couldn’t trust it after years of disappointment.

“I can’t take my chances with it and be late for work,” said Gangaram, who is an analyst in Manhattan. “I would love to ride it to save more than $100 a week on Uber, but I can’t risk it.”

In interviews, he and Andrews shared anecdotes of commuters walking for miles to and from the LIRR station because of late buses. Andrews said that because the N1 runs from Jamaica to Elmont during peak hours, it gets stuck in rush-hour traffic on Hempstead Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike. She added that it was typical to see three N1 buses running one right after the other, with the first bus full and the latter two empty, which drives her mad.

Andrews and others said it would make more sense for the N1 to begin its route at Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road, rather than in Jamaica. Commuters could then take the N6/X, which runs from the subway station to Elmont Road every five to 10 minutes during peak hours, and then transfer to the N1 through an area with significantly lower traffic. Andrews said that she has pitched the idea to NICE officials several times.

NICE spokesman Andy Kraus said that the additional service on the N1 was in response to rider feedback. “NICE does its best to utilize resources effectively to meet rider needs and travel patterns,” he said, adding that the N1 runs 64 times on weekends.

Members of Solages’s staff have placed signs at the N1 bus stops to inform residents of the return of the 6:45 a.m. bus. Riders said they have yet to be informed of the addition by NICE. Andrews said she took the bus on two mornings, with only one other passenger the first time and two others on the second.

“This is the one time that we have a change in the bus for the better, but no one knows about it,” she said. “We have to get the word out, or else they’re just going to cut it again.”