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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 Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority until 2008.

HistoryEdit

Private companies (pre-1973)Edit

In 1973, it was decided to merge 11 private operators (routes in italics have been discontinued) under the name Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority:

  • Bee-Line, Inc. (N1, N4, N6, N2*, N3) and subsidiaries:
    • Rockville Centre Bus (N15, N16, N14, 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, 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)

(*) denotes original bus routes that are now community shuttle routes

In the 1980s, the N28 (now discontinued), N46 (also discontinued), N50 (also discontinued), 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 (now discontinued) and N43 routes being created.

In 2007, MSBA averaged over 109,000 weekday riders, many of which include customers connecting to MTA services in the region. By 2008, MBSA had averaged 101,981 weekday riders by the time of the company was merged with Veolia Transportation.

Privatization and NICEEdit

In 2008, the future of MSBA became uncertain, as the company threatened drastic cuts due to Nassau County's disproportionately small contributions to the operation. For the past decade, the MSBA 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 MSBA desired that this contribution increase to $26 million. Critics have noted that Westchester County subsidized its similarly-sized Bee-Line Bus 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 2008, the MBTA—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 MBTA and privatizing the Long Island Bus system. However, on April 27, 2008, Mangano announced that he had retained Veolia Transportation to operate the system beginning in May through a public-private partnership pending legislative approval. Mangano announced that the service was going to be renamed Nassau Inter-County Express (or NICE), upon Veolia's takeover of the system. All future buses, including Able-Ride vehicles, would be painted into a new paint scheme to reflect the change. Veolia began operations May 1, 2008. This Veolia plan was the subject of heated county public hearings in which Long Island Bus riders and employees criticized the plan.

On July 1st, 2010, Veolia discontinued all service on the N3, N17, N28, N53, N65, N66, N67, and N87 due to low ridership, with some cuts on the M2, N14, and N88 and modifications of the N1, N23, N25, and N26. These cuts saved over $1,692,000 in net savings.

In February 2012, Veolia announced more 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. 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 2013, the NICE bus system obtained "a windfall" from increased New York State (but not Nassau County) aid of $5 million and $3 million from a fare increase for MetroCard bus riders.

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."

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.

On January 17, 2016, NICE eliminated fifteen routes due to a budget deficit and low ridership and restructured three other routes.

On June 27, 2016, NICE restored service on two routes (n80/81) and restored two others (n14, n17) as shuttles.

On September 6, 2016, NICE restored service on one route (n51) and restored three others (original n2, n62, n73) as shuttles.

In December 2016 NICE announced a 12 million dollar budget shortfall for FY2017 and warned of additional service cuts. These cuts were proposed to the Transit Advisory Committee, but failed to pass. A more severe sets of cuts was passed in February, eliminating 10 routes and reducing four more. Many of these routes were the ones restored in 2016. Additional last minute state funding allowed service on three routes to be saved.

Bus depotsEdit

Nassau Inter-County Express has two depots - one each for its fixed route and paratransit operations, as well as an additional depot that was closed in 2017.

Mitchel Field DepotEdit

The Mitchel Field Depot (marked Senator Norman J. Levy Transit Facility on the building itself) is located at 700 Commercial Avenue in Uniondale, and is the headquarters and central garage for Nassau Inter-County Express fixed route service. The garage is named after the Mitchel Air Force Base that operated there from 1918 until 1961. All routes are dispatched from this garage.

Stewart Avenue Depot (Able-Ride)Edit

The Stewart Avenue Depot is located at 947 Stewart Avenue in East Garden City. All Able-Ride Nassau County shared-ride ADA paratransit service is dispatched from this garage.

Rockville Centre DepotEdit

The Rockville Centre Bus Depot was located at 50 Banks Avenue in Rockville Centre. This garage was originally the home of Bee Line, Inc, and was closed in 2017 as part of a cost cutting move.

FleetEdit

Nassau Inter-County Express runs a 100% compressed natural gas-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.

All pre-2011 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 and provide customers and dispatchers alike with real-time bus location data accessible online (akin to MTA Bus Time).

Photo Builder and
model name
Year Length Numbers
(Total ordered)
Powertrain
(Engine and transmission
or propulsion system)
Notes
Orion Bus Industries
Orion V (05.501)
2002-2003
(acquired 2014)
40 ft (12.19 m) 1000-1022 (23 buses)
  • Detroit Diesel Series 50G EGR 8.5L
  • Allison B-400R WTEC
  • Formerly owned by California-based Foothill Transit.
  • Being retired, 6 units remain in service.
DaimlerChrysler
Commercial Buses

Orion V (05.501)
2004 1633-1699
(67 buses)
  • 1636 was repowered with a John Deere 6081H engine.
  • Being retired; 33 units remain in service.
Daimler Buses North America
Orion VII Next Generation (07.501)
low floor
2008-2011 41.2 ft (12.56 m) 1700-1839
(140 buses)
  • The 1700-series have frameless windows and white LED turning lights mounted on the curbside and street side of the body, while the 1800-series have framed windows.
  • 1804 was written off in 2011 due to a major accident.
Daimler Buses North America
Orion VII EPA10 (07.501)
low floor
2012-2013 1840-1884
(45 buses)
  • Replaced many pre-2004 Orion Vs.
  • Originally an option order for Long Island Bus's Orion VII Next Generation CNGs but was transferred to NICE following Veoila takeover.
  • Last Orion buses to be built alongside NYCT's 1550-1653.
New Flyer Industries
"Xcelsior" (XN40)
low floor
2015-2016 41 ft (12.50 m) 1885-1964
(80 buses)
  • First New Flyer buses for Long Island.
  • 1885-1936 are 2015 units, while 1937-1964 are 2016 units.
ARBOC
"Spirit of Mobility"
minibus
2015-2016 26 ft (7.925 m) 2290-2297
(8 buses)
  • GM 6.6L Duramax V8
  • Used on the Elmont Flexi, Mercy Medical Shuttle, and Sunrise Mall Community Shuttle.
New Flyer Industries
"Xcelsior" (XN60)
low floor articulated
2017 60.83 ft (18.54 m) 1965-1969
(5 buses)
  • Cummins Westport ISL G
  • Allison B-500R WTEC
  • Used only on the n6 line.
  • Features WiFi and USB ports.

RoutesEdit

NICE runs fixed-route service on 35 routes, plus three shuttles, 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. Non-shuttle 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.

NICE routes operating to Jamaica and Flushing 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 two 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 225th Street, where state maintenance of Jamaica Avenue begins, and westbound pickups occur as far west as 239th Street); and the n31/n32 and n33, which operate open-door in a portion of Far Rockaway where no other bus service is available. In addition, the n33 operates closed-door within the City of Long Beach, where local service is provided by Long Beach Bus.

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