Bogner: Reverse commute is critical for Long Island's future

Enhancing the Long Island Rail Road is a

Enhancing the Long Island Rail Road is a crucial element in achieving what is a very bright future for Long Island indeed. (Credit: iStock)

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Long Island has enormous potential for job growth if we rethink how the Island relates to the talent employers require. Some of those talented people are already here, as my fellow area college presidents and I well know. Others will inevitably have to be attracted here, and the convenience of public transportation is key -- especially links between Long Island and New York City.

Traditionally, those links went primarily one way, as Long Islanders commuted to the city to make their money and brought it back home. The employers were typically there, not here.

That trend is changing. Long Island has developed and expanded its own centers of innovation, to the point where we now have an extraordinary array of research laboratories, institutions of higher education, health care systems and technology companies that attract commuters from New York City and beyond.


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We're no longer a bedroom community; we're a vital component of a metropolitan area.

So we must ensure that people can, whatever time of day, travel from New York City to Long Island just as easily as they can go from Long Island to New York City -- and that they can travel easily across the Island as well.

Reverse commuting is crucial to Long Island's economic growth. It gives our employers access to the employees they need in order to thrive and grow. It's what's driving job growth in White Plains and Stamford, Conn. -- through reverse commuting on Metro-North Railroad -- and making those communities more attractive to employers than communities on Long Island.

It also gives employees the flexibility they require. Many of Molloy College's faculty members, for instance, want the convenience of public transit. While some want to live on Long Island, others are attracted to the city and want to commute. Some have spouses with careers in the city. They want the choices and flexibility that public transit provides.

Recent college graduates embarking on their careers also want the convenience and access of reverse commuting. Our recent graduates are looking for walkable environments with restaurants, shops and entertainment to live in, and they want easy access to public transportation between their jobs and homes. They want to be on their computers and iPhones when they're commuting, not stuck behind a wheel.

Long Island's future depends on more efficiently linking our extraordinary institutions and the talent needed for these resources to expand and create jobs. A blueprint for this public discussion already exists in the 2013 Long Island Index, published by the Rauch Foundation.

Titled "How the Long Island Rail Road Could Shape the Next Economy," it highlights three major developments that can provide the linkages we need: East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal, which is well under way and scheduled for completion in 2019; a "second track" from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma, which could be completed by 2018 and significantly enhance one of the railroad's most overcrowded lines; and the long-debated "third Track" -- better called the "fast track" -- on the LIRR Main Line, which would improve service and better provide for reverse commuting.

We can't lose sight of the importance of this third element, even as we focus on completing the first two.

Long Island is impressively positioned for future growth. We have world-class institutions, a lifestyle that's widely admired, and proximity to the greatest city in the world. But we need to take full advantage of that proximity by maximizing the potential of public transit to generate job growth on Long Island and better connect Long Island to our thriving metropolitan region. Enhancing the Long Island Rail Road is a crucial element in achieving what is a very bright future for Long Island indeed.

Drew Bogner is president of Molloy College in Rockville Centre.

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