As Car Free Day Long Island celebrates its 10th anniversary on Thursday, event organizer Transit Solutions has already recorded 2,422 pledges from commuters and travelers who have vowed to give up their personal wheels for at least a day.
The organization, whose goal is to foster conversations about mobility as well as transportation alternatives, is helping Long Islanders participate in World Car Free Day. The event is celebrated every September as a day when people are encouraged to take the train, bus, bike, carpool, walk or telecommute – instead of using a personal vehicle. Links provided on Transit Solutions’ website, transitsolutions.org, help Long Islanders explore a wide range of transportation alternatives, including MTA, LIRR, NICE Bus, Suffolk County Transit, 511 NY Rideshare, Long Beach Municipal Bus, Huntington Area Rapid Transit and the Nassau-Suffolk Bike Coalition.
The goal, said Mindy Germain, program manager for Transit Solutions, is to reimagine the avenues of mobility and transport in Nassau and Suffolk – from downtown revitalization to on-demand initiatives and mini-transports that connect commuters to transit options. “It’s the one day of the year when everyone is focused on sustainable mobility,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, Long Island’s Car Free Day approached 6,000 pledges, a number that dropped to around 1,000 in 2020 from having 3,000 pledges ultimately this year.
In the decade the event took place, Germain said federally-funded transit solutions have seen and helped put transportation initiatives in place. One such development is the Nassau County NICE Mini Bus, where commuters can connect from the railroad or bus to a specific geographic area. Another scheme in Suffolk helps commuters get to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Town Hall using public transport options.
While east side access from Long Island Rail Road and the addition of a third track will make all transportation options easier, Germain says technological advancements in something as simple as being able to navigate transportation links public transit and options on your cellphone lead to some of the biggest and most useful transportation initiatives for commuters.
Not only can travelers now use apps and programs to connect trains, buses and other transit options, but with new pilot programs being explored, Germain said, they can also connect to on-demand bikes and services — all of which can help make commuting more emissions-friendly and make Long Island car-free.