After a previous attempt to offer Sunday bus service couldn't make it past the county executive's desk, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, gained overwhelming support for an East End-only proposal, which passed the legislature by a 16-1 vote on Tuesday night.
The change in service would hike fares on the S92 and 10C routes from $1.50 per ride to $2. If signed into law, a pilot program for the routes will be offered, starting service on July 3, to make sure the program will be self-sustaining.
The S92 runs from East Hampton to Orient, running through Riverhead, and the 10C runs from Montauk to East Hampton.
Legislators Schneiderman and Ed Romaine, R-Center Moriches, at the County Center in Riverside to call for support of the bill, which they say is particularly needed for the East End's working class, which depends on tourism dollars during summer months.
"Our economy is built on a seven-day work week," said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell on Friday. "People need public transit, and our system right now is woefully inadequate."
Some riders, though, expressed concern over the relative sharp increase (33 percent). Schneiderman has pointed out the fare has not been raised in 19 years.
"I don't know how many working class people can afford it," said Ed Grienke, a Medford resident who said he relies on the bus. "I spend $4.50 to $6.00 a day on the bus. It may not sound like a lot, but if you increase the rates and count that per ride, it adds up."
The fare hike, if signed into law by County Executive Steve Levy, will begin on June 17.
Schneiderman's prior proposal for Sunday bus service, which was vetoed by Levy in January, would have offered service from the East End to western Suffolk. Though not all legislative districts would have received Sunday service, all bus fares were proposed to be raised, partly the reason the legislature failed to override Levy's veto. Levy and Schneiderman also didn't see eye to eye on their financial projections for the increase in service — Levy said the increase in service would cost $1 per ride, double Schneiderman's projection.
Dan Aug, spokesman for the county executive, issued the following statement in an email: "The county executive is reviewing the legislation. The administration had asked the legislature to table the measure until a survey of riders could be conducted, but our request was denied. We will consider doing our own survey next week to gauge ridership opinion."
While it remains unknown if Levy will veto the measure, 12 votes are required for an override, four fewer than the 16 obtained on Tuesday.
Schneiderman said on Wednesday that even if the county executive wanted to conduct a survey - even though he said a recent study has already suggested Sunday service - the votes he earned probably makes the plan "veto-proof."
"This has been studied," Schneiderman said on Wednesday. "A lot of it comes out to how do you ask the question? If you ask people if they want their fares to go up, they will probably say no. If you ask if they want Sunday service, they will probably say yes ... Either way, it's not going tchange my opinion at this point. I've done enough data gathering to know that this is a solid plan."