More millennials are relying on mass transportation rather than personally owned cars. Between 1989 and 2014, there was nearly a 20 percent decrease in the number of 20- to 24-year-olds with driver’s licenses. And when millenials do get their licenses, we don’t buy cars as frequently as our parents and grandparents. To keep millennials working and living on Long Island, we need the third track.
We’re looking for life in the suburbs to be made easier by the train. The Long Island Rail Road’s project to add a third track from Floral Park to Hicksville would take on this challenge.
In 2016, the LIRR reached its highest ridership numbers since 1949 because of millennials, according to the LIRR’s Origin and Destination Study. And more than ever before, riders weren’t just commuting into New York City during peak times. The study found that a third of all LIRR trips were for purposes other than a commute to and from jobs in New York City. Six percent of trips were reverse commuters traveling east for jobs. According to LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski, the two-track LIRR can’t handle the commuting preferences of newer riders.
Without the third track, age diversity on Long Island could stagnate. The Rauch Foundation, the company that funds the Long Island Index to study local trends, found that the third track would attract 35,400 new Long Island residents, 39 percent of whom would be between the ages of 22 and 44. A larger, younger workforce would keep Long Island working and growing as older generations leave the workforce. But without the third track, millennials might not find the constraints of suburban life attractive.
Millennials tend to delay car ownership because we are hitting traditional events, like getting married and having children, later in life, according to the Los Angeles Times. In our 20s and early 30s, we don’t need cars or the financial responsiblity they carry. So when we do look to buy homes, according to Long Island Business News, we’re looking for easy commutes and walking distances to downtowns and train stations.
That’s where the LIRR needs to come in.
While the number of millennials on Long Island increased between 2000 and 2015, there are still 100,000 fewer 20- to 34-year-olds on Long Island than in 1990. The third track can bring more of this age group to Long Island.
The millennial generation is less dependent on cars than our parents and grandparents were at our ages. The third track and a modernized LIRR would serve millennials’ mass transportation needs.
Long Island’s political leaders will decide this month whether to go ahead with the third-track project. And that could also mean a decision on millennial growth on Long Island.
Melissa Holzberg is an intern with Newsday Opinion.