Nassau County Democrat Legislature member Laura Curran made sense when placing Nassau Inter County Express (NICE) bus riders’ needs above partisan politics by crossing party lines and joining Republicans in supporting a $6 million bond for the purchase of badly needed replacement buses. NICE bus, along with predecessors Long Island Bus and Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority, have benefited by more than $500 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration (previously known as the Urban Mass Transportation Administration) going back to the 1970s.
All of these grants were made possible by a 10 percent match from both Nassau County and the New York State Department of Transportation. Virtually 100 percent of the Nassau County bus capital program, including buses, paratransit vehicles, Hempstead and Mineola Inter Modal Bus Terminals, Rockville Center Bus Garage, Mitchell Field Bus Maintenance Facility, Stewart Avenue Garden City paratransit facility, CNG fueling stations, fare-collection equipment, automatic vehicle-locator equipment, real-time communications systems to notify riders for anticipated arrival of the next bus, shelters, bus stop signs and other support equipment necessary to run the system, were all paid for primarily with federal funding. Without providing 10 percent in matching funds, Nassau County would be unable to apply for $48 million in federal funding to pay for 28 replacement buses, replacement of underground CNG fueling storage tanks and other capital improvements. Albany matches Nassau County dollar for dollar. Uncle Sam provides $8 for each Nassau County dollar. You can’t find a better return on these investments for public transportation.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate and historian who, for 31 years, worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.