An annual program run by the NICE Bus will provide low- and moderate-income riders a free trip. Inside Nassau County, of course.
“Everyone Rides NICE” works by the Nassau Inter-County Express purchasing MetroCards and distributing them to more than 20 social service agencies in Nassau County through the United Way of Long Island.
“Every day, riders are depending on a NICE bus to get to and from work, keep an important medical appointment, attend school or vocational training, or shop for their family’s necessities,” said Theresa Regnante, president and chief executive of United Way of Long Island, at a June 29 press conference.
The program’s goal is to provide economically disadvantaged families the help they need to get around, taking at least one major cost off their plate — transportation.
Transdev, the transit company’s parent, created Everyone Rides NICE in 2015. Since its inception, the program has provided more than $850,000 worth of free MetroCards to participating agencies across the county, according to officials, serving some 2,500 people each year.
MetroCards distributed this year provides two free trips anywhere within Nassau. More than 35,000 cards will be delivered through two-dozen social service agencies partnered with United Way.
“It is critically important to provide these bus passes for essential transportation to least advantaged individuals and families to ensure that everyone has equal access to our vital public transportation during these challenging times,” Regnante said.
Jack Khzouz, NICE’s chief executive, said the program’s goal is to enrich people’s lives by providing the free rides. It’s among a number of outreach programs including multiple charity events each year, to tackle a variety of social and economic issues affecting the county.
“We consider it foundational to our mission,” said Khouz, stressing that while there is a high demand for transportation assistance from those living in Nassau, the company’s overarching mission is to serve all of the county’s communities.
“How we engage with our communities, understand the needs of the communities, is how we provide service,” he added.
Everyone Rides NICE program is even more important now during the current fuel crises that has spiked gasoline prices amidst growing inflation.
“With the additional pressures that households have with these rising prices, we find that families and individuals who may not have needed this assistance in the past find themselves in a situation transportation costs become too much to bear in their overall budget,” Khouz said.
Now they will have a little more help managing myriad day-to-day affairs, such as working multiple jobs and getting their kids to schools. The program seeks to help Nassau’s most vulnerable, who may need transportation assistance for physical and mental health care, or to food pantries and substance abuse clinics.
“Anything that affects our communities can be accessed using this tool,” Khouz said.