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 is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she 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

One thought on “Friday is first-ever Car Free Day on Long Island

  1. Hahahaha this is a joke. No one who has a car would in their right mind try to even attempt to utilize suffolk county public transportation!
    I’m not one of those lucky ones who has a car and has to depend on SC Transit as do thousands of other people and it’s a big joke. late buses, EARLY buses (earlier than the 10 minutes that it says on the website to be early), missed connections, drivers passing you by (when you are at an actual stop), an app that doesn’t work AT ALL, shows half the buses or NO buses (I’m AT the bustop and the app says there are no active routes in my area).
    Buses every HOUR, transfers good for only 2 hours but since the buses are late and if you need to take more than 2 buses (you’re allowed 2 transfers w/ 1 slip), your transfer will expire and even if only by a few min., many drivers will not allow you to get on the bus.

    I wonder if Steve Bellone partook in this? HAHAHAHA.

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