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Long IslandTransportation

Underground trains, bigger airport, seaport, smart roads

Long Island's MacArthur Airport has entered its fifth

Long Island's MacArthur Airport has entered its fifth decade of commercial air travel. The airport has undergone renovations and an expansion (in 2004) and is home to Southwest, which occupies Concourse A of the terminal. Could the future mean expansion for the growing airport? Photo Credit: Newsday, 2010 / John Paraskevas

We asked people to think outside the lane about Long Island's transportation future. Short of the transporter on Star Trek, or personal jet packs (though we are growing impatient for our jet packs), we asked for ideas that are not quite on the drawing board, yet inspiring. A few ideas:

The Long Island subway

"The train comes out of the city under a river," said the chairman of Action Long Island, a Melville-based planning group. "Keep it there."

Sackstein hopes to someday get a $1.5-million government grant to conduct a feasibility study for the plan. He sees a pilot project beneath the Route 110 corridor.

Sackstein says people have warmed to his idea as they consider the benefit of having a train system below ground that could be expanded as needed.

"It's take on a life of its own, and it's risen to 'Well, it's expensive.' Yeah, well, OK. But is it a bad idea?"

Port somewhere

This would be a deep-water port off the North Shore in Suffolk County.

Michael White, executive director of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, said a port could significantly reduce truck traffic by having freight shipments arrive directly by ship instead of having to be trucked out here.

"It's one of the solid answers as to how we'll move stuff on and off Long Island," said White. He says it could be built within 20 years. "There's no reason why it couldn't be."

Connecticut connections

Under the category of get-us-off this-Island, said Lee Koppelman, director of the Center for Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University, suggests "direct high-speed ferry service to New Haven from the Shoreham nuclear site" or a bridge to Connecticut from the northern end of the William Floyd Parkway.

White imagines a bridge to Connecticut farther east in Suffolk.

"The connectors from Long Island to the mainland are totally overwhelmed," White said.

Smart cars - and roads

There's an entire very important field of human endeavor known as "intelligent transportation systems." Experts in this tell us that cars are already being developed that automatically brake or swerve to avoid accidents.

The state Department of Transportation hopes to be at the forefront of vehicle technology. As part of the World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems held in Manhattan last year, the DOT installed 46 sensors along the LIE that eventually will communicate with vehicles - potentially advising drivers if they should turn on their windshield wipers or adjust their speed.

A phone app for the train

Technology innovations also will change the way travelers pay for public transportation.

The MTA is exploring a "smart card" fare payment system that will replace the MetroCard and directly bill commuters for rides on trains and buses.

LIRR president Helena Williams foresees a day when the only thing needed to pay for a train ride is a cell phone.

"Your phone becomes your walking E-ZPass,"Williams said. "When you look into the future, I don't think we've even begun to see what the possibilities are."

About those jetpacks

At least a couple of companies are working on this and even marketing them. Operating with a single rotor, the jetpack developed by the Martin Aircraft Company in New Zealand delivers about 600 pounds of thrust and has a 31-mile range on five gallons of fuel. They can fly as high as 8,000 feet. So far, the company envisions the jetpack for use by emergency response workers or the military.

Last month, the company announced it had signed a $12 million joint venture to begin production. Price: about $90,000.

- ALFONSO CASTILLO and BILL BLEYER

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