Transit advocates gathered in Hauppauge Tuesday urging the state for more funding for Suffolk County’s bus system in the final state budget.
The advocates stood outside New York's Department of Transportation’s office on Veteran's Highway in support of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's request to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County’s state delegation asking for $10 million in additional state funds. That money would be used to expand service to Sundays and later into evenings.
Enhanced transportation is needed in the region, where riders rely on service to get to work and school or to shop, advocates s. For some, public transit is there only means of transportation.
“Suffolk County Transit ridership has grown roughly 40 percent since 2001,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit policy watchdog.
The county, he said, has "done a good job supporting its system and riders have paid higher fares for better service, but Governor Cuomo and the Senate and Assembly leadership need to do more to support workers, businesses and students who depend on the system.”
Commuters also spoke their mind.
“As a Suffolk county bus rider who relies solely on the buses to get to work, my daily commute is often stressful because the buses are systemically late or frequently don't show up at all,” said Aaron Watkins-Lopez, a Suffolk County Transit customer.
“Suffolk bus riders need more service so we aren't constantly worried that we can't get to the supermarket, we'll be late for work or we'll be stranded for hours because our bus never arrived," Watkins-Lopez noted.
Local business leaders weighed in as well.
“The businesses and residents of Suffolk County thrive in a vibrant 24 hour/7day a week community that never takes a day off or goes to sleep,” said Michael DeLuise, President of the Melville Chamber of Commerce.
“To hinder the health and growth of those who live, work and do business by offering them only part-time access to public transportation can only stand in the way of our growth and posterity,” he added.
Richard Bivone and Robert Fonti, chairmen for the Long Island Business Council, pointed out that enhanced service would help the small business workforce get to work and bring in additional customers to local businesses, improving the region's downtowns.
Enhanced transportation would enhance life for the disabled in the county.
“Having access to transportation is critical to the disabled community as it ensures our population the opportunity to live comparable lives as the non-disabled community,” said Joseph Delgado, executive director of Suffolk Independent Living Organization, Inc.
He added: “In Suffolk County people with disabilities make up a large segment of the public transportation ridership and depend on public transportation to access medical services, go to work, shop and enjoy the many recreational activities afforded to people who have other means for traveling in Suffolk County.”