OK, Long Island.
We got this.
“Summer of hell,” schmell. If we can make it through hurricanes and a superstorm, we got this; through some of the highest property taxes and living costs in the nation, we got this; through corruption, nepotism, leaving the air show at Jones Beach, losing the Islanders, well, you get the idea.
But the summer won’t be easy for commuters, or for the rest of us, for that matter. Beginning Monday, every crack in the region’s transportation infrastructure could be laid bare.
Think of morning rush as a tide emptying into Manhattan, which reverses flow each evening. The Long Island Rail Road — OK, OK, when it’s working — provides a ride along its surest, swiftest current.
But come Monday, commuters used to catching that current will be redirected toward a series of tributaries.
Some of those streams will be smaller, like two ferries scheduled to leave from Glen Cove — with a combined capacity of 374 out of the 10,000 commuters expected to be impacted by work that will begin on tracks at Penn Station.
Some of the streams will be slower, like chartered buses that are expected to flow along the Long Island Expressway’s HOV lane, presumably until the lane ends and slams into the usual morning clot of Queens-bound traffic.
Meanwhile, some LIRR trains will be diverted from Penn Station to terminate instead in Brooklyn and Queens, where passengers will disembark to cram alongside the regular commuting crowd on subways heading (OK, OK, when they’re working) into Manhattan.
Finally, there’s the lucky bunch lining up for the Golden Ticket, a ride straight into Penn Station. Even with the extra cars promised by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, those trains probably will be stuffed to the beams, if only because they provide what every other available tributary lacks — a predictable commute.
Overcrowded trains mean overcrowding in already overcrowded LIRR parking lots, such as Hicksville and Huntington. Are local governments, which have authority over those lots, prepared for that? And while the MTA points to buses being available at various locations many of which already were in use. But what happens if a lot fills? Where’s the overflow supposed to go? And what happens if the ferry fills and there’s a line of traffic still extending south of Glen Cove? Where’s the next destination?
And consider this: Commuters who work in Manhattan aren’t the only people who could be left to rely on local roads. Vacationers, local workers, a mom in one town taking a kid to the doctor in another could be out there scrambling time, too — especially if commuters, as the MTA has suggested, push morning and evening rush beyond their usual boundaries.
Sadly, municipal bus systems probably won’t provide much help; they’ve been financially starved in Nassau and Suffolk for years. Meanwhile, should more commuters take to their cars — which the MTA has advised against — they’ll add traffic to a local roadway system that already has too few ways to quickly move between north and south, only one significant way (the LIE) to move between east and west; and roadways (such as 25A on the North Shore and Broadway on the South Shore) that haven’t been updated to handle significant volumes of traffic.
Should things go swimmingly, it will be a relief — no, make that a complete, total and utter surprise. Still, in these last few hours before the “summer of hell” begins, buck up.
Because, ultimately, each of us will be out there on our own.