Nassau Inter-County Express
A Nassau Inter-County Express westbound N4 bus departs the Freeport Railroad Station.
|Parent||Nassau County, New York (fleet ownership)|
|Headquarters||700 Commercial Avenue
Garden City, NY 11530-6410
|Locale||Nassau County, New York|
|Service area||Most of Nassau County, except for northern Town of Oyster Bay|
|Service type||Local bus|
|Hubs||4 major bus hubs, 48 LIRR stations, and 5 New York City Subway stations|
|Fleet||301 fixed-route, 101 Able Ride|
|Daily ridership||93,206 (Weekday, 2012)
|Fuel type||CNG (fixed-route)
|Chief executive||Michael Setzer|
The Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE or NICE Bus) is the local bus system serving Nassau County, New York. It also serves parts of western Suffolk County, New York as well as eastern portions of the New York City borough of Queens. It was formerly operated under the name of MTA Long Island Bus, the trading name of the Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority, a division of MTA Regional Bus Operations. In 2011, the owner, Nassau County, decided to switch the system over to a private operator, Veolia Transportation (now called Transdev), due to a funding dispute with the MTA.
Private companies (pre-1973)
The MTA began operating Nassau County bus service in 1973 under the name Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority, through the merging of 11 private operators:
- Bee-Line, Inc. (N1, N2, N4, N6, and the now-discontinued N3) and subsidiaries:
- Rockville Centre Bus (N14, N15, N16, and N17)
- Utility Lines (N19; extended to Patchogue along current S40 Suffolk Transit route)
- Stage Coach Lines (N71, N73, N74, and earlier N70): NOTE: The N70 under Stage Coach was a loop route from Hempstead to Levittown, Bellmore, Wantagh, and back to Hempstead.
- Mid-Island Transit (N78, N79, N80, N81): This operator was acquired by Stage Coach, which would be acquired by Bee-Line. Also operated by this operator was a route from today's Broadway Mall to Oyster Bay.
- Schenck Transportation (N20, N21, N22, N23, N24, N25, N26, N27) and previously acquired:
- Nassau Bus Line (N31, N32, N33)
- Universal Auto Bus (N57 and N58)
- Jerusalem Avenue Bus Line (N51, N54, N55) and a now-discontinued Massapequa Park circulator (old N53)
- Hempstead Bus Corporation (N35, N36, N37 [merged into N35], N40, N41, N45, N47, N48, N49)
- Roosevelt Bus Line (N62)
- Branch Bus Corporation (N69; transferred to Long Beach in 1984)
- Hendrickson Bus Corporation (N67, discontinued January 1975)
MTA Long Island Bus
In the 1980s, the N28 (now discontinued), N46, N50, and N70 (as an N72 branch) were instituted as new routes, with the N20 extended to Hicksville. The 1990s saw the creation of a shuttle around Roosevelt Field (N93, now discontinued), two shuttles designed to take customers from train stations to work sites (the N94 and N95, both discontinued), and a service connecting Nassau County to JFK Airport (the N91, now discontinued), with the 2000s seeing a Merrick shuttle (now discontinued) and the N8 and N43 routes being created.
In 2007, Long Island Bus averaged over 109,000 weekday riders, many of which include customers connecting to other MTA services in the region. By 2011, the MTA had averaged 101,981 weekday riders by the time of the agency's exit from operating the service.
Privatization and NICE
In 2010, the future of MTA Long Island Bus became uncertain, as the MTA threatened drastic cuts due to Nassau County's disproportionately small contributions to the operation. For the past decade, the MTA has provided a unique subsidy (of $24 million in 2011 and over $140 million since 2000) to the Nassau County bus system that the other New York City suburban county bus systems have not received. The county's contribution was $9.1 million per year out of a total budget of $133.1 million, and the MTA desired that this contribution increase to $26 million. Critics have noted that Westchester County subsidized its similarly-sized Bee-Line Bus System service by $33 million/year, and that Suffolk subsidizes its substantially smaller Suffolk County Transit system by $24 million/year. The county hoped to reduce its contribution from $9.1 million to $4.1 million by using a private contractor; the planned county contribution was later decreased to $2.5 million/year.
By March 2011, the MTA—citing Nassau's refusal to pay its contracted amount—proposed a set of major service reductions which would have eliminated over half of the routes, with the greatest impact on southeastern Nassau County, eliminating all routes operating south of Hempstead Turnpike and east of the Meadowbrook State Parkway (except for the N71). After reviewing the service cut plans, County Executive Ed Mangano considered severing ties with the MTA and privatizing the Long Island Bus system. A temporary reprieve, via additional state funding, would have sustained service through the end of 2011. However, on April 27, 2011, the MTA voted to cease all bus service in Nassau County after the end of 2011. Mangano then announced that he had retained Veolia Transportation to operate the system beginning in 2012 through a public-private partnership pending legislative approval. On November 10, 2011, Veolia and Mangano announced that the service was going to be renamed Nassau Inter-County Express (or NICE), upon Veolia's takeover of the system. All buses, including Able-Ride vehicles, would be painted into a new paint scheme to reflect the change. On December 12, 2011, the legislature unanimously approved the Veolia contract, which was subsequently approved by the state-controlled Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) on December 22, 2011. Veolia began operations January 1, 2012. This Veolia privatisation plan was the subject of heated county public hearings in which Long Island Bus riders and employees criticized the plan.
In February 2012, Veolia announced service cuts and adjustments to take effect in April 2012. While there were no route cancellations planned, just over $7 million in cuts to existing routes were planned, with service reductions and route concentrations planned for routes primarily serving northern and eastern Nassau County, beginning in spring 2012, with resources redirected towards busier routes. These cuts ultimately included decreased service on 30 routes, including elimination of weekend service and decreased midday service on seven routes. These cuts were criticized as occurring too soon, only six weeks after starting service. The Long Island Bus Rider's Union, a transit advocacy group, sharply criticized the cuts, claiming that "the announcements of service adjustments on the [NICE bus] website were very unclear", that service to many health care and social service centers was cut, and that "many of the NICE bus service cuts appear to be in low income communities where more people rely on buses to get to work and to access the few available health care centers that serve their needs."
In March 2014, the NICE bus system faced another $3.3 million budget deficit. At that time, the bus system expected "an increase of state aid -- its largest revenue stream -- of $1.2 million." NICE chief executive Michael Setzer said that NICE would "take a fresh look" at "underperforming" lines. Bus advocates pressed the Nassau County Legislature to increase funding for NICE, noting that neighboring counties contribute significantly more to their bus systems, such as Suffolk County subsidizing Suffolk County Transit with about $29 million in county tax dollars, compared to only $2.6 million from Nassau County to NICE. As a result of this, service is severely impacted and that bus service is highly unreliable. About 20-25% of runs are missed a day due to consist breakdowns and with the arrival of new buses being more than a year away, NICE is currently receiving used CNG buses from California. Because of this ridership is down from 101,000 in 2007 to a little over 60,000 today. 
On October 31, 2014, the Nassau County legislature adopted a 2015 budget that will increase Nassau County's contribution to NICE bus from $2.6 million to $4.6 million in 2015 and promised not to raise fares outside of Metrocard fare increases (Metrocard is controlled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority). This new $4.6 million contribution was hailed as a victory for Nassau County bus riders, although it will still leave NICE bus with a $6 million operating deficit.
However, on December 11, 2014, Nassau County executive Ed Mangano proposed cutting $4 million from Nassau County's NICE bus contribution (in addition to cuts to numerous other Nassau County services) to replace the $30 million that will be lost after the shutdown of Nassau County's controversial school speed zone cameras.
The current fare is $2.50 ($1.25 for seniors and disabled customers) with a MetroCard (including unlimited cards) or coins. Students with ID receive a discount of $0.25 from the base fare. Dollar bills are not accepted on any NICE fixed-route buses. Transfers are available upon request with coins, and are included automatically with MetroCard. The transfers are valid for two hours and can be used on two connecting NICE. They are also valid on Suffolk County Transit, Long Beach Bus, or Huntington Area Rapid Transit (HART) with the following restrictions:
- Transfers to non-MetroCard buses are with coins only.
- Transfers to the New York City Subway, or New York City Bus or MTA Bus express service, are available with MetroCard only (express buses require additional fare).
- Transfers from Suffolk Transit, Huntington Area Rapid Transit (HART) or Long Beach Bus require payment of a $0.25 fare.
The Able-Ride paratransit fare is $3.75, payable in Able-Ride tickets or exact fare.
Nassau Inter-County Express operates from three garages in Nassau County, as listed below.
Rockville Centre Depot
The Rockville Centre Bus Depot is located on 50 Banks Avenue in Rockville Centre. This garage, originally the home of Bee Line, Inc., houses the following routes: N1, N2, N4, N8, N14, N15, N19, N25, N31, N32, N33, N35 (some service), N36, N40 (some service), N41 (some service), N62, and N88 Jones Beach (summer service only).
Mitchel Field Depot
The Mitchel Field Depot (marked Senator Norman J. Levy Transit Facility on older buses and on the building itself, pictured in the background at the top of this page) is located on 700 Commercial Avenue in Uniondale, and is the headquarters and central garage for Nassau Inter-County Express. The garage is named after the Mitchel Air Force Base that operated there from 1918 until 1961. All routes not operated from the Rockville Centre garage are dispatched from this garage.
Stewart Avenue Depot (Able-Ride)
The Stewart Avenue Depot is located on 947 Stewart Avenue in East Garden City. All Able-Ride Nassau County shared-ride ADA paratransit service is dispatched from this garage.
Nassau Inter-County Express runs a 100% Orion CNG-fueled bus fleet for fixed route service. All of the buses below are 102 inches (2.59 meters) wide and are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Pictures shown are of buses in NICE livery or in Nassau County's stripe colors of blue-and-orange, though most of the 1700s still are in the MTA's blue stripe paint scheme and have not been re-decaled at this time. All buses are equipped with "smart bus" technology from Woodbury-based Clever Devices Ltd., which includes automated onboard route and stop announcements.
However, Nassau Inter-County Express has recently hired Clever Devices again to replace its original "smart bus" system in most of the fleet with brand-new on board units and software that use GPS data to calculate the next stop announcements instead of odometer-based data with the older system. The new system will also provide maintenance with vehicle diagnostics data andprovide customers and dispatchers alike with real-time bus location data accessible online (akin to MTA Bus Time).
It should be noted that some individual units from each order are not in service due to damage from various accidents, fire damage, or structural integrity problems.
(Engine and transmission
or propulsion system)
|Orion Bus Industries
|2000||40 ft (12.19 m)||1526-1632
|Orion Bus Industries
(formerly 396-398, 400-462)
|Daimler Buses North America
Orion VII Next Generation
(semi-low floor, CNG)
|2008||40.5 ft (12.34 m)||1700
|Daimler Buses North America
Orion VII EPA10
|40.5 ft (12.34 m)||1840-1884
40 foot (12.19 meter) buses, replacing all the remaining Orion V CNG buses.
(low floor, CNG)
(low floor, CNG)
NICE runs fixed-route service on 49 routes, servicing the towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead, and the southern part of Oyster Bay, along with parts of the cities of Long Beach and Glen Cove. Routes are designated "N" for Nassau County, with service provided daily (although not all routes operate 7 days a week), and 24-hour service provided on the N4 Merrick Road and N6 Hempstead Turnpike routes. Route numbers on bus stop signs, route timetables, and destination signs use a lower case "n" as part of NICE's branding.
NICE routes operating to Jamaica and Flushing, Queens operate closed-door service in Queens (that is, local service is not provided solely for travel within Queens; appropriate NYC Transit or MTA Bus services must be used instead). There are three exceptions to this: the N24, where one side of Jericho Turnpike/Jamaica Avenue is in New York City, but the other side of the street is in the Town of Hempstead (eastbound drop-off begins at 225 Street, where state maintenance of Jamaica Avenue begins, and westbound pickups occur as far west as 239 Street); and the N31/N32 and N33, which operate open-door in a portion of Far Rockaway where no other bus service is available. Also, the N2/N8 bus to and from Green Acres Mall via Hook Creek Blvd in Rosedale section of Queens. In addition, the N33 operates closed-door within the City of Long Beach, where local service is provided by Long Beach Bus.
- Castillo, Alfonso (November 9, 2011). "LI Bus gets new name, look, operator says". Newsday. Retrieved November 10, 2011.(subscription required)
- Applebome, Peter (March 27, 2011). "Riders to Lose Buses as Nassau and M.T.A. Battle". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2012.
- "Nassau Bus Riders May Get Reprieve on Service Cuts". The New York Times. 2 April 2011. pp. A17. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
- Castillo, Alfonso (March 2, 2011). "MTA Long Island bus faces deepest cuts". Newsday. Retrieved April 20, 2011.(subscription required)
- Castillo, Alfonso (March 16, 2011). "Nassau: Private company to run LI Bus". Newsday. Retrieved March 20, 2011.(subscription required)
- Maloney, Jennifer (April 1, 2011). "LI Bus saved for 2011 by $8.6M from state". Newsday. Retrieved April 20, 2011.(subscription required)
- Castillo, Alfonso (April 27, 2011). "MTA vote ends contract to run LI Bus". Newsday. Retrieved April 27, 2011.(subscription required)
- Castillo, Alfonso (June 10, 2011). "Pick to run LI Bus has D'Amato tie". Newsday. Retrieved June 10, 2011.(subscription required)
- Service cuts coming to NICE buses with low ridership. http://7online.com/archive/8553313/
- http://nicebus.com/Passenger-Information/Fares-Passes.aspx NICE fare policy
- Long Island Bus garages - EPA.gov
- MTA Long Island Bus orders Orion VII NG (CNG) buses
- Castillo, Alfonso (July 25, 2012). "Nassau buys 45 new buses for NICE fleet". Newsday. Retrieved July 28, 2012. (subscription required)
- http://nicebus.com/About-NICE/Procurement.aspx NICE bus procurement