LONG ISLAND INDEX
Extensive But Aging Transportation Infrastructure
If Long Island’s housing stock is aging, its infrastructure is even older. Most of Long Island’s highway network and the Long Island Rail Road were built many decades ago, much of it in the early 20th century. At rush hour, and even at other times, many roadways are beyond capacity, slowing commutes and travel of all types. And even though most residents rely primarily on their car, Long Island is highly dependent on an extensive transit network. More people take the Long Island Rail Road than any other commuter railroad in the country, and nearly 40 million passengers ride Long Island Bus and Suffolk County Transit every
year. Without these networks, auto traffic would grind to a halt and the economy would slow to a crawl.
While bus ridership has grown in the last decade, LIRR rider- ship has not. Ridership declined by 4% while ridership on Metro-North Railroad and New Jersey Transit increased by 13% and 29%, respectively. In fact, final statistics for 2011 are likely to show that Metro-North has overtaken LIRR in ridership. While some of this is due to slower population growth on Long Island, much of it is also because other systems have added new capacity and services. New Jersey Transit invested in several new links that permitted far more New Jersey residents to avoid transfers and have a direct ride into Midtown Manhattan. Metro-North added a third track on its Harlem Line that has greatly increased the capacity for reverse commutes in particular. Long Island Rail Road has added no new capacity and has significant bottlenecks on its two-track mainline to Hicksville and its one-track line to Ronkonkoma.
Some of this will change when the LIRR completes its East Side Access project. Thousands of the LIRR riders will be able to disembark at Grand Central Station on the east side of Manhattan, saving many up to 40 minutes a day in travel time. If the experience of New Jersey Transit holds here, property values near LIRR stations will increase substantially once the service is in place. However, this will not help add capacity for travel within Long Island or from New York City out to Nassau and Suffolk.
Long Island Index
“The Long Island Index is a project that gathers and publishes data on the Long Island region. Our operating principle is: ‘Good information presented in a neutral manner can move policy.’ In November 2002, Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation, convened a small group of Long Island’s civic, academic, labor and business leaders to discuss challenges facing the Long Island region and potential catalysts for new direction…The Index does not advocate specific policies. Instead, our goal is to be a catalyst for action, by engaging the community in thinking about the Long Island region and its future.”