Sunday and evening bus service may be expanded in Suffolk County thanks to a deal struck between Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.
The agreement will provide a minimum of $1.1 million toward the service, which will begin as a pilot program for one year, according to a press release issued on Tuesday by Mr. Schneiderman’s office. The Legislature’s Public Works and Transportation Committee approved the legislation on Tuesday and a vote by the Legislature on the plan is expected to take place at the on May 7 in Hauppauge.
Recently, New York State increased its State Transit Operating Assistance for Suffolk Transit by approximately $2.1 million above what was anticipated in the Suffolk County 2013 budget, giving the county the opportunity to establish a Sunday bus service year-round on limited routes.
For the past two summer seasons, a trial Sunday and holiday bus service ran on two East End routes, which was subsidized in part by a 25-cent higher main fare. Seeing success in the trial bus runs, Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Bellone agreed to direct $1.1 million to the Sunday and expanded evening services and put $1 million into the county’s general fund.
Mr. Schneiderman said in the press release that he understood the need to devote some of the funds elsewhere.
“Recognizing the depth of the county’s fiscal problems, I agreed to allow half of this additional state funding to be used to close our county general fund deficit,” he said, adding that the county will apply for a federal grant through the Job Access Reverse Commute program. He said if granted it would help the county achieve $2 million total in new funding for the expanded bus service.
According to Mr. Scheiderman, the influx in funds will help many in Suffolk County.
“Sunday is a busy day for retail and service-oriented businesses,” he said. “Employees need to get to work and employers need a workforce they can depend on.”
The County Department of Public Works will monitor the expanded service and will make recommendations to the feasibility of continuing the program beyond the one-year period no later than 270 days after the pilot begins.
Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing car dependency in the Tri-State area, said the pilot is a big deal for the county.
“Today’s vote is an important first step toward creating the seven-day-a-week bus service that Suffolk County deserves,” Mr. Lynch said. “This investment in Sunday and evening bus service is a down payment that will help riders and local businesses immediately, while also laying the groundwork for additional service expansions in the future.”