I hate driving. And anyone who’s ever been in my passenger seat would say he or she would much rather I don’t.
Of the 10 years I’ve now had a driver’s license, I spent nine avoiding parkways and left turns at all costs. I definitely didn’t miss it when I left for college, or when I lived carless in Manhattan.
Yet there I was, going from dealership to dealership in search of a new car when I moved back to Long Island last year.
Auto sales reports a week ago debunked what many were thinking, and confirmed I fit right in with the trend: Millennials won’t be the generation to break the nation’s obsession with driving and car ownership.
Car companies reported record 2015 sales, and millennials were more than 27 percent of new-car buyers, up 10 percent from 2010. In fact, a quarter of Toyota’s sales in the last three months of 2015 were to millennials.
None of this surprises me. Millennials on Long Island have no choice but to drive on congested roads, or deal with some hefty inconveniences.
All the suspicions about young people bucking the consumption habits the boomers had before us just don’t apply here. Like how we buy fewer products but more services such as paying for laundry service or Uber rides instead of buying a washing machine or a car.
The LIRR, our main mode of public transportation, doesn’t run north to south and offers less service on nights and weekends. Bus routes are limited and tricky to navigate between counties. Uber and other new e-hail services operate scarcely on Long Island and under the radar as the politics play out about whether the service would be allowed here. Cabs are unreliable and overpriced. Even the most environmentally conscious young person would admit it’s just not practical to not have a car on Long Island.
There’s a whole population here who has no choice but to use our region’s limited public transportation, but I would happily give up the privilege of owning a new car if Long Island’s public transit was good. Hypothetically though, let’s plot this: Right now it takes me about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic, to drive from where I live in Long Beach to where I work in Melville. Map it on Google and you’ll see to get here on public transportation it would take three buses, a Long Island Rail Road train and two hours and 51 minutes — five times longer. Impractical.
Walking on the boardwalk in Long Beach one night, passing the new bike rentals, my friends and I debated — could we live on Long Island without a car? Maybe, but only if we never leave Long Beach. And if we got all our groceries delivered. And if the winters weren’t so brutal. A lot of “ifs” there, even in Long Beach, one of the most realistic carless existences on Long Island.
Transit-oriented development projects could make Long Island communities more viable, but driving still remains the most efficient way to get around here, and I just don’t see that changing.
I’ve given in now and drive on bridges, parkways and even make left turns. But my passengers still complain.
Amanda Fiscina is a online producer for Newsday Opinion.