Suffolk County has created a new committee whose members will be tasked with making recommendations for a new bus service plan in the wake of the recent elimination of eight county transit routes—including three that had been servicing the South Fork—to help close the county’s budget gap.
County Legislator Bridget Fleming, whose district covers the South Fork, introduced the measure in early October, and it passed the full legislature on November 22 by a 14-0 margin.
The job of the 11-person committee, which will include county officials, a member of the Long Island Bus Riders Union and other transit representatives, will be to evaluate the county’s current bus transportation system in order to rework ineffective routes with the goal of increasing ridership and improving public transportation options. Members will then be asked to make recommendations for a new plan that serves “key ridership segments” and utilizes “key assets,” according to a press release from Ms. Fleming’s office.
The committee is expected to hold its first meeting 30 days after the 11 positions are filled and will continue to meet three or four times a year, according to county documents. Members will then issue a report of their findings and recommendations to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who still needs to sign the measure, and all 18 members of the County Legislature within one year of the resolution, dated November 22.
“As a former member of the Southampton Town Board, I firmly believe that there is value in working with different levels of government and other stakeholders,” Ms. Fleming stated in the release. “It is my hope that this working group will find innovative solutions to the transportation problems we face in Suffolk County that will maximize the level of service our residents receive, promote the use of our transit system, and keep costs at feasible levels.”
In early October, Suffolk County eliminated eight of its least utilized bus routes, based on ridership costs, to help close a $78 million budget shortfall. According to county notices, the elimination of routes 1B, 5A, 7D/E, 10A, 10 D/E, S35, S71 and S90 will end up saving the county about $4 million per year.
The 10D/10E route ran from East Quogue to Hampton Bays and looped around Hampton Bays, while the 10A route followed Noyac Road to Sag Harbor and North Haven. The S90 route extended from Center Moriches and ran through Westhampton Beach, Quogue, East Quogue and continued north to the county center in Riverside.
County officials previously stated that the 10D/10E route cost an average of $82 per rider, with a daily ridership of 12. The 10A route, meanwhile, cost the county $55 per rider and had a daily ridership of 20.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who pushed for Sunday bus service when he held Ms. Fleming’s seat, said he would like to be appointed to the 11-person committee, noting that his goal would be to restore some of the cut bus routes. He also said the county’s analysis was flawed, as it failed to consider the seasonal population of East End towns.
“I want them to come up with a better solution rather than simply axing those lines,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I think they can rethink this one. I’m glad they’re entertaining the idea.”
He added that the county’s formula when deciding which routes to eliminate was also unfair, explaining that communities are more spread out on the East End, meaning that costs are going to be automatically higher than those accrued in western Suffolk County.
Mr. Schneiderman added that he thinks bus routes should be determined on need, not operational costs. “It costs more to transport a disabled individual than someone who can sit in a regular seat—does that mean we should cut transportation for the disabled?” he said. “Of course not, but that’s basically how they made their decision on a cost-per-person basis.
“The basic methods for deciding which routes were cut are flawed,” he continued. “We took the biggest hit.”