The Rockville Centre bus depot has officially closed.
The Banks Avenue station, which had been on the chopping block by the Nassau Inter-County Express bus company since December, locked its doors for good on April 9.
According to NICE spokesman Andy Kraus, operations were consolidated into the Mitchel Field Depot in Garden City as of April 8. There were roughly 400 employees at the facility, including mechanics, maintenance people, drivers, utility workers and engineers.
Rockville Centre depot representatives said in December that there was not enough space to house all of the employees, along with its vehicles. Officials there could not be reached for comment when the Herald visited the facility on April 7.
“Based on its planning efforts, NICE believes the consolidation at Mitchel Field will succeed and is a fiscally responsible decision,” said Kraus. “NICE has been making extensive improvements to increase capacity at Mitchel Field, primarily reconfiguring employee and bus parking and making more efficient use of space, allowing more vehicles to operate efficiently from the facility.”
Kraus said there were “no firm count on layoffs at the moment as some drivers who were offered reassignments within the organization have not committed to them.” He added that the process is based on seniority.
According to his figures, the county gave NICE just over $6.7 million in discretionary money last year, but will not dispense any new monies in 2017. Nassau County only provided the minimum local match of just over $2.5 million that is required for the agency to receive the New York State Operating Assistance of just under $67 million. He also projected that passenger revenue would drop by just over $2.1 million this year.
Because of that, NICE’s overall budget this year is about $8.9 million less than that of 2016.
To help close that gap, the Nassau County Bus Transit Committee on Feb. 16 approved NICE’s plan to cut 10 bus routes, including one in Rockville Centre, and reduce service to four more. Those changes also went into effect on April 9. Another part of the plan was to close the Rockville Centre depot at a savings of $1.5 million.
But the closing could be a costly one for Nassau County. According to former Federal Transit Administration employee Larry Penner, the county would have to repay both the New York State Department of Transportation and the FTA if it closed the depot.
Penner, who worked for the FTA for 31 years, said that the then Bee Line Bus Garage was renovated around 1988, at a cost of $10 million. Of that, $8 million was provided by the FTA’s predecessor, the U.S. Department of Transportation Urban Mass Transportation Administration, and $2 million in local matching funds was split by the state and county.
“Should NICE bus attempt to close this depot in April 2017, Nassau County will be on the hook with both the FTA and NYSDOT,” Penner said in a December letter to the Herald. “This shut down could result in the FTA requesting reimbursement by Nassau County based upon straight line depreciation for the remaining value of this investment, which was never achieved.”
All capital improvements have a useful life requirement. The Rockville Centre depot’s life expectancy was roughly 36 years.
County Comptroller George Maragos confirmed Penner’s assessment during a Dec. 30 interview.