Friday is first-ever Car Free Day on Long Island

A typical summer sunset in Southampton.
A typical summer sunset in Southampton.

Long Islanders, like most Americans, love their cars, but this Friday they’re being asked to do something few of us can imagine: leave them parked home, in our garages and driveways, and venture out into the world of alternative transportation.

World Car Free Day has been around since the year 2000, but this is the first year that a consortium of Long Island alternative transportation groups has banded together to hold a car free day here.

Rosemary Mascali, the manager of the MTA’s Transit Solutions program, is coordinating the Long Island effort.

“Car Free Day is celebrated around the world in 1,500 cities and 40 countries,” she said this week. “We thought bringing it to Long Island would be a way to help people consider the impact of transportation on our economy and environment.”

Her group has banded together with towns, schools, businesses, car poolers, colleges, environmental groups and bicyclists to form a coalition that is asking people to pledge to either be car free or car “lite” on Friday, Sept. 20.

The pledge is online here and an exhaustive list of alternative modes of transportation on Long Island is available here. Folks who pledge to go car free will be entered into a raffle to win one of a bunch of prizes, which are listed here.

The list includes bus and train schedules, ride share programs, locations of bike lockers and links to Google Maps that show the best biking and walking routes on Long Island. The website will stay up after Car Free Day is over to provide a resource for people who want to decrease their automobile use in their daily lives, and in anticipation of next year’s Car Free Day on Long Island.

“We tried to accumulate all the resources in one place,” said Ms. Mascali, who plans to travel from Manhasset to Hauppauge via public transit on Friday, posting the details of her travels on Car Free Long Island’s Facebook page throughout the day. For East Enders who don’t know much about the difference between Manhasset and Hauppauge, it’s a 30 mile trip that takes about half an hour in a car, but could take several hours by public transit. The group is also asking Long Islanders to send in their own testimonials about how they traveled on Friday.

“Part of Car Free Day is to get people to know what transportation choices are out there,” she said. “We want to get people to understand how it could get better and see its limitations. If people just get in their car and drive every day, nothing will change.”

“I think that with the focus on transit-oriented development, people are beginning to live in communities that have more transit options,” she added. “There’s an extensive bus system on Long Island in Suffolk and Nassau that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. It works for some people but it won’t work for others, depending their on proximity to a bus stop.”

Ms. Mascali was quick to point out that some alternatives to driving don’t involve transportation at all. Telecommuting, for example, can be done without using any mode of transportation.

“Long Island has a lot of different communities with a lot of different opportunities to celebrate the day,” she said. “We all have an impact on traffic and air quality and greenhouse emissions in our everyday activities.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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