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LI Bus Helps the Census Count

MTA Long Island Bus has partnered with the 2010 Census providing use of the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center to support an outreach campaign designed to increase the number of people who mail back 2010 Census forms. The Transit Center was selected because of its central location in Nassau County and the volume of people who use the facility. Twenty-five thousand to 30,000 passengers file through its doors daily.

On a wet, chilly spring morning you could count the number of people milling about the Hempstead Transit Center. In a way, that was exactly the point. That morning, the Census Bureau's New York Regional Office came to the transit center as part of its Partnership and Data Services Program. The program was established to build relationships through community organizations, businesses and other local groups.

"Coming to a place like this exemplifies the 2010 Census grassroots community outreach strategy, and it enables us to engage with people who may have reservations about mailing back their census form," said Igor Alves, Media Specialist for the Partnership Program.

Despite being a national institution -- the first Census count took place in 1790 -- many people are still wary of filling out the short questionnaire. According to Alves, people react positively to the Census message when they are reached one-on-one in surroundings they are comfortable with. He says transit hubs are among the most trusted and familiar locations to the public along with schools and houses of worship.

Besides promoting good community relations, Census participation benefits public transportation as well. Data is used to help develop Title VI Civil Rights reports and non-discriminatory service for such things as bus routes. Census data are also used to apportion congressional seats and distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds each year.

Statistics show that for each percentage point increase in the national mail-back response rate, the Census Bureau saves taxpayers about $80 to $90 million in face-to-face interview costs.

On that front, Omar Enriquez, the partnership specialist working the Hempstead Transit Center outreach, thinks LI Bus made a full accounting of itself. "This was a great location for us," he said. "We hit the right audience with the right message."

So far, the results are bearing this out. Alves says New York State surpassed its 2000 mail participation rate by one percentage point, despite an environment of lower overall participation in questionnaires of any kind. "We're grateful for all the help we received from LI Bus and the rest of the MTA," he added.