Nice n21

glen cove to great neck

Nassau County's northern shore is comprised of three peninsulas, home largely to sprawling, leafy, suburban areas, with very high car ownership rates. However, there are a few larger villages with at least a hint of urbanism, and some roads have higher business density, so NICE, Nassau County's bus system, does serve these three peninsulas. Most of these routes, however, function as connections to elsewhere in the county (or to Queens): Great Neck, the bus hub for this part of North Shore, has the n20G to Flushing, n20H to Hicksville, n25 to Lynbrook, and the n26 to Jamaica, Port Washington has the n23 to Mineola, and Glen Cove has the n27 to Hempstead. There are exceptions to this rule: the n57 and n58 - both of which are short shuttle routes in and around Great Neck - as well as this: the n21. The n21 links Glen Cove to Great Neck, linking two of the three peninsulas, and running along the south edge of the third, which at first seems like a nonsensical routing because of how car-oriented these areas are. But, will my ride of this route prove this theory wrong? Keep reading to find out!

The bus starts on the southern edge of Glen Cove's "downtown" - it is rather car-dependent, and when I was there on a Saturday afternoon, mostly dead. I boarded the bus, paying with the NICE GoMobile app (which annoyingly charges 35¢ extra over paying with MetroCard), and we left the stop, turning right onto Glen Cove Av.

The bus in Glen Cove

The Glen Cove Public Library

After a block on Glen Cove Av, we turned left, continuing to follow Glen Cove Av, which became a 5-lane stroad. We soon encountered a hill, and the bus was struggling to get up it. We eventually made it to the top of the hill, and passed through increasingly-suburban southern Glen Cove

A minute on the bus, and stroads already?

The bus struggled up this hill

We soon turned right onto Glen Av, entering Sea Cliff. We didn't serve the Sea Cliff LIRR station, although it is only a 10-minute walk to the station. Glen Av was even more leafy than before, and soon we reached Prospect Av. At this point, I noticed that the bus's announcement system announced turns as well as stops, when it said "Left on Prospect" at this turn. I'd imagine this is a GTFS bug, but it was very funny.

Turning right on Glen Av

The bus announcing the turn

We turned left onto Prospect Av, and soon came up alongside Hempstead Harbor. This stretch of water seperates the Gold Coast peninsula from the Cow Neck peninsula. Fun fact: Hempstead Harbor's sand was used in the construction of New York City's buildings, and for the 125 years mining was in operation, 140 million square yards of sand was mined!

Turning onto Prospect Av

Hempstead Harbor

We continued south of Prospect Av, which became known as Shore Rd as we entered the hamlet of Glenwood Landing. Shore Rd then took us away from Hempstead Harbor as we passed a fancy-looking condo. Soon after, we turned right into Glenwood Rd.

The fancy-looking condo

Turning onto Glenwood Rd

We passed some full-on mansions on Glenwood Rd, before turning right onto Bryant Av, entering the village of Roslyn Harbor. We soon got one last look at Hempstead Harbor, then entered the village of Roslyn. We crossed under a highway bridge carrying Northern Blvd, and entered Roslyn's downtown.

Turning onto Bryant Av

The last look at Hempstead Harbor

We turned right on Old Northern Blvd, which had more of Roslyn's small downtown. We soon passed the historic Roslyn Clock Tower, built in 1895, then veered right to continue on Old Northern Blvd. We soon turned left, still following Old Northern Blvd, and headed up another hill the bus struggled with.

Roslyn's downtown

The Roslyn Clock Tower

After making it up the hill, we turned left on Northern Blvd, which was the epitome of a stroad. This is also where we joined the n20H, although no one transferred here. We passed Port Washington Boulevard and entered Manhasset, crossing the southern end of the Cow Neck peninsula

Turning onto Northern Blvd

A classic stroad business

We passed yet more stroady suburban businesses until Maple St, where we passed just to the south of the Manhasset Valley, and within sight of the Manhasset Viaduct, which I saw a train go across (although the picture I got was not very good!). After this, we entered the village of Thomaston, and therefore the Great Neck peninsula. 

Maple St, with the Manhasset Viaduct behind

Only the best quality pictures here (/j)

After more stroad, we finally left Northern Blvd and turned right on S Middle Neck Rd. We continued to Great Neck's rather small downtown (technically in the village of Great Neck Plaza), turned right on the north side of Great Neck station, then looped around to the south side, where this route terminates.

Turning onto S Middle Neck Rd

Looping around Great Neck station

The bus at Great Neck

Route: NICE n21 (Glen Cove to Great Neck)

Ridership: 433 riders per weekday in 2021, making it the eighth-least used bus on NICE.

Pros: The scenery along Hempstead Harbor is really nice. Also, having a connection between the Port Washington and Oyster Bay Branches is great, but the n23 does already serve this, as it connects to both Port Washington and Roslyn stations. In addition, every 40 minute frequencies on Saturday is not bad.

Cons: Hourly off-peak frequencies are not great, and I feel like Sunday service could be useful (as the n27, Glen Cove's other bus, does not operate on weekends). However, my main gripe with this is that it does not serve anywhere else on the Gold Coast peninsula except for Glen Cove. On the one hand, I do understand that such an extension would likely not get a lot of riders, but the portion north of Roslyn is roughly the same type of area, and they run it there! Heck, even an extension to Glen Cove or Locust Valley LIRR stations could be useful, but its only an extra ~15 minutes of route time to Oyster Bay, and that could easily be done with 2 buses and hourly frequencies or 3 buses and 45-minute frequencies.

Nearby and Noteworthy: It's about a 20-minute walk to the Glen Cove LIRR station from this route's terminus, and the ride from there to Oyster Bay is really scenic. Glen Cove, Roslyn, and Great Neck all have downtown areas, but only Great Neck looks even vaguely interesting - Roslyn is tiny and Glen Cove is car-infested suburbia.

Final Verdict: 6.5/10

I think this is a pretty good route, and I'm happy that despite its somewhat low ridership, it still exists. However, I think an extension to Oyster Bay would both solidify its status as a Port Washington Branch-Oyster Bay Branch connector, which is sort-of-but-not-really what it functions as now, and it would also probably boost ridership: Oyster Bay and its surrounding areas have quite a bunch of interesting things that this route could open up. I feel that anything below a 6 is too harsh - after all, I do like the route - but I hesitate to give it a 7 without that extension to Oyster Bay, so a 6.5 it is!