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Long Island

Car Free Day set for Monday as LIers urged to get around without their wheels

Transit Solutions manager Rosemary Mascali speaks at a

Transit Solutions manager Rosemary Mascali speaks at a rally about Car Free Day with Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone at Farmingdale State on Sept. 19, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had better remember to bring $2.25 in quarters when he leaves for work Monday.

That's the cost of a ride on a Suffolk bus -- Bellone's chosen mode of transportation on Long Island's second annual Car Free Day on Monday.

Bellone gathered with other civic, transportation and environmental leaders at Farmingdale State College Thursday to promote the event, which aims to reduce Long Island's reliance on automobiles.

"This is Long Island's event. It's about Long Islanders taking action to have a positive impact on our environment and our economy," said event co-chairwoman Rosemary Mascali. "There's 3 million of us on Long Island. And if we all drove just 1 mile less, that's 3 million miles."

Car Free Day has been observed on Sept. 22 by cities around the world since 2000. The event aims to reduce traffic, conserve energy, protect the environment and promote fitness by getting drivers to consider transportation alternatives, including buses, trains, carpooling, cycling and telecommuting.

Car Free Day is organized by the Long Island Rail Road's Transit Solutions program and the New York State Department of Transportation 511NYRideshare program. The event has been supported by major Long Island employers and transit providers, including the Nassau Inter-County Express and the North Shore-LIJ Health System.

Last year, more than 2,500 people took the pledge to go car-free or at least car-light on Car Free Day. That resulted in the avoidance of 65,000 miles of driving and 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Mascali, manager of the federally funded Transit Solutions.

With the busiest pledge days still ahead, nearly 2,400 Long Islanders this year have already taken the pledge, available at carfreedayli.com.

Bellone said food trucks will be parked outside the H. Lee Dennison Building Monday to discourage county employees from driving to get lunch. Bellone said he will ride his bicycle from his West Babylon home to his nearest bus stop, then use Suffolk County Transit to complete his trip to Hauppauge.

"We cannot grow our economy here on Long Island simply by adding more cars to our roadways," Bellone said.

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University's National Center for Suburban Studies, said that while efforts to raise awareness about transportation alternatives are important, "old habits die hard."

"And one of the oldest habits in suburbia, born of necessity, is the car," Levy said. "Real change will only be possible when the alternatives are much more appealing to Long Islanders. Right now they aren't."

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