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Feb 1, 2017 11:48 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fleming Pushing For More Public Transportation Funds

The bus route 10A, which shares some stops with route S92, was cut last year. PRESS FILE
Feb 1, 2017 12:47 PM

The Suffolk County bus routes between Hampton Bays and North Haven that were eliminated last year due to budget constraints are rolling back into the spotlight as county officials are pushing Albany to allot more funding for public transportation.

County Legislator Bridget Fleming said on Monday that she and her fellow legislators are asking the state to provide more funding for public transportation on Long Island; their request comes in the wake of more cuts, this time affecting Nassau County public transportation systems.

Presently, both counties receive both federal and state money to fund their public transportation systems. In 2015, Suffolk received about $24.5 million in state aid and $387,221 in federal aid, according to county officials. The county also collected about $10.1 million in fares and advertising, for a grand total of $35 million. However, it cost the county $36.2 million to operate its bus system that year.

“The big problem that we had last year, that ended up with routes being cut on the South Fork, was a budgetary problem,” Ms. Fleming said. “We don’t believe we are getting our fair share of [funds], particularly MTA funds.”

She continued: “From my perspective there needs to be a careful planning process to handle how best to provide public transportation. I don’t think it’s been done adequately for many years.”

In the fall, Suffolk County cut eight Suffolk County Transit Bus routes—including three on the South Fork—as part of a plan to trim $4 million in its operation costs, Deputy Commissioner of Suffolk County Public Works Darnell Tyson estimated at the time. The county eliminated local bus routes 10 D/E, 10A and S90; the other five routes—1B, 5A, 7D/E, S35 and S71—had serviced western Suffolk.

In the wake of the cuts. Ms. Fleming pushed for the creation of a 12-person committee whose members are charged with evaluating the bus system; the group, she said, should meet for the first time at the end of the month.

Now, Nassau County officials are contemplating making similar cuts in the spring by eliminating 10 routes and reducing service on another four to save nearly $7 million, explained Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a Northport-based organization that strives to improve Long Island. The group organized a press conference on Monday in Farmingdale, which attracted lawmakers from both Nassau and Suffolk counties, and demanded that Albany allocate additional money to help fund local public transportation services.

Ms. Fleming, who was unable to attend the press event as it was held nearly 70 miles west of her Sag Harbor office, said getting more funding for public transportation is the initial step to fixing what has become an island-wide problem.

“They are talking about the first step—restoring some of the funding,” Ms. Fleming said. “Cutting [the bus routes] really left people without a way of getting to important appointments, and to and from work. We need to restore the service.”

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor said on Tuesday that he is hopeful that legislation proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which would impose a tax on ride-sharing services, could help generate more state revenue for public transportation services in Suffolk.

“They cut back eight routes [in Suffolk],” Mr. Thiele said. “I think any additional money the transit systems can get would be beneficial to them.”

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