Privatization of LI Bus raises fare hike concerns

MINEOLA - A formal private takeover of Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Long Island Bus could be just days away, and local riders are growing anxious over the possibility of fare increases and service cuts.Advocate Ryan Lynch, of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, fears the worst. He says that without help from the MTA, the bus service faces a $35 million budget shortfall next year. Lynch worries the new private owner, Veolia Transportation, will raise fares and eliminate routes. As many as 100,000 people use Long Island Bus every day to commute to and from work and school.Nassau County is currently negotiating with Veolia. The company's executive, Michael Setzer, says until the contract is signed, he can't make any fare or service promises. Tonight, the office of County Executive Ed Mangano (R-Nassau) says Veolia held its first meeting with bus employees and plans to keep them. The transit unions will begin their negotiations with Veolia next week. The privatization of Long Island Bus would also require approval by the county Legislature and the state watchdog agency NIFA.

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