In the wake of the MTA’s failure to sustain a Long Island bus system, and in order to continue the much needed service without disruption, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano announced today a plan for a public-private partnership to provide the transportation.
In the coming days, the County Executive will forward to the County Legislature for approval, the selection of Veolia Transportation, Inc. to operate L.I. Bus in 2012.
Mangano said that Veolia is a leader in the transportation industry and a multi-national corporation responsible for the management of transit systems throughout the world. In the United States and Canada, Veolia operates service pursuant to over 200 contracts with 18,000 employees and transports over 400 million people annually.
Veolia’s recommendation comes from an independent committee Mangano formed in 2010 to evaluate public-private bids to run Long Island Bus. The outgoing CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority was then retained to assist in its implementation. That CEO – Mark Aesch – is best known for turning the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority from a money-losing, under-performing organization into a public sector leader – that has actually cut fares for customers and reduced reliance on taxpayer dollars.
“Because the MTA has failed taxpayers time and time again, I will move forward with a public-private partnership in 2012 that maintains bus service without demanding an additional $26 million from homeowners and employers through the form of higher property taxes,” said County Executive Mangano. “A public-private partnership to operate Long Island Bus makes sense for taxpayers. The steps we take today will protect riders and ensure bus service continues into the future. Residents will finally have accountability for their tax dollars as the private sector will run bus service more efficiently and effectively while not holding our taxpayers hostage for increased revenue year after year.”
When Mangano said Nassau could not afford that increase, the MTA voted in April to cease all bus service in Nassau County after the end of 2011.
In its bid to provide the County’s fixed route transit and para-transit services, Veolia Transportation, Inc. proposed a first year budget of approximately $106 million, a massive reduction from the current Long Island Bus budget of $141 million.
While the MTA has proposed to eliminate 27 fixed routes, Veolia Transportation, Inc. will maintain all routes for 2012. For 2013, Veolia has countered that only 6 routes may need to be eliminated. This action will result in approximately $4.7 million in revenue being retained, as opposed to being eliminated under the MTA service reduction plan.
However, the County has made it clear to Veolia that route eliminations will only be considered as a last resort and only after consultation with the County and required public hearings.
Veolia will study and analyze the current system to determine where efficiencies may be found to reduce the cost of the system, while maintaining and eventually expanding services. In the long term, anticipated revenues will be reinvested in the system to improve services and technology. Veolia also has stated their willingness to expand the County’s paratransit system and find efficiencies to improve service and reduce costs. The company has proposed a management team that consists of Michael H. Setzer serving as CEO of LI Bus. With over 30 years of experience in the transit industry, Setzer has served as CEO of transit systems in Minneapolis, Cincinnati and St. Louis.
In selecting Veolia Transportation, Inc. to provide the County’s fixed route transit and paratransit services, the independent committee cited the large corporation’s ability to absorb revenue shortfalls in the event they occur; the ability to obtain funds to make capital purchases with the expectation that reimbursement will come from state and federal sources; the experience in every aspect of operation, grant management and capital program management; a price proposal which falls within the range established in the independent cost estimate and a detailed plan for fixed route service adjustments.
Over the coming weeks, Nassau County will negotiate a contract with Veolia Transportation, Inc. to operate Nassau’s bus system. Upon reaching an agreement, the contract will then be forwarded to the Nassau County Legislature for approval.
What Systems Are Maintained by Veolia and Relevant to Nassau County?
Veolia Transportation, Inc. manages the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority. Veolia took over New Orleans’ fixed route and paratransit system after a short period with another private operator following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Since taking over operations, Veolia has reduced operating costs by 20% while significantly increasing the on-time performance of both the fixed route and paratransit systems. Veolia Transportation, Inc. has been able to secure additional funding to expand transit services in New Orleans including a $47 million TIGER grant for the New Orleans streetcar project; they believe they can secure additional funding for the County’s bus system.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, a mixed fleet with multiple garages, is also maintained by Veolia Transportation, Inc. The company operates this fixed route system in Las Vegas which serves 54 million passengers annually and 17 million revenue miles, as opposed to approximately 14 million revenue miles in Nassau County.
Veolia Transportation, Inc. maintains the Metropolitan Transportation System in San Diego. The company has successfully transformed this former public operation to private management. Veolia also maintains the Regional Public Transit Authority in Arizona. The company successfully completed a turnkey transfer of operations from another operator in only 7 days.
Furthermore, Veolia operates 17 systems that use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered fleets; the largest being the Foothills Transit system in California that operates 302 CNG buses.