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've vowed to give up their personal wheels for at least a day.
The organization, whose goal is to push for conversations about mobility as well as transportation alternatives, helps Long Islanders participate in World Car Free Day. The event is celebrated every September as a day when people are encouraged to ride a train, bus, bicycle, utilize a carpool, walk or telecommute — instead of using a personal vehicle. Links provided on the 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 Bicycle Coalition.
The goal, Transit Solutions program manager Mindy Germain said, is to re-imagine mobility and transportation avenues in Nassau and Suffolk — from downtown revitalization to on-demand and mini-transport initiatives that connect commuters to public transit options. "It's the one day a year when everyone focuses on sustainable mobility," she said.
Pre-pandemic, Car Free Day Long Island approached 6,000 pledges, a number that dropped to about 1,000 in 2020. Germain said the group — which brings together government officials, academia, corporations and transit experts to explore and create initiative and commuting solutions — hopes to have 3,000 pledges when all is said and done this year.
In the decade the event has taken place, Germain said the federally funded Transit Solutions has seen — and, helped usher — transportation initiatives into place. One such development is the Nassau County NICE Bus mini, where commuters can connect from the railroad or bus to a specific geographic area. Another program in Suffolk is helping commuters access Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and town hall using public transit options.
While Long Island Rail Road's East Side Access and the addition of a third track all will aid in commuting options, Germain says technological advances in something as simple as being able to navigate transit links and options on your cellphone are leading to some of the biggest and most useful transportation initiatives for commuters.
Not only can travelers now use apps and programs to make connections between trains, buses and other transit options, but thanks to the new pilot programs being explored, Germain said, they also can link to bicycles and on-demand services — all of which can help make travel more emissions friendly and help make Long Island car-free.