The Nightmare Of The Long Island To New York City LIE Commute

The Nightmare Of The Long Island To New York City LIE Commute

Feature Photo: Jeff Zhou /

Millions of people from Long Island, New York, can practically claim they have lived half their lives on the Long Island Expressway. While that may seem ridiculous, it’s not far from the truth. I am not talking about the people who occasionally drive into the city for a concert, broadway show, ball game, or whatever. No, I am talking about the woman or man who wakes up every day and hits the road heading to work in New York City. It is a nightmare journey that continues to get worse every single day. Tell a Long Island commuter sitting on the LIE for two hours plus every morning that many people are still working from home and will laugh in your face. It’s all we continue to hear that many businesses are still allowing people to work from home. Well, it doesn’t seem like that.

Since I can remember, traffic has been bad driving into the city on weekday mornings. When I was a kid in the 1970s, I would drive with my father to work every morning during the summers from Smithtown to Long Island City, and it would always be around a two hour drive. We would wait until 7:00 pm to drive home because if you left around five pm, it would also be a two hour drive that woudl generally take 45 minutes with no traffic.  In 2024, that method no longer works; here’s why.

The End Of Rush Hour

Remember when people used to leave work early to avoid rush hour? Many people who commute back and forth from Long Island to New York City daily would agree that rush hours have entirely disappeared, especially heading east on the LIE. Traffic used to flow well during the early afternoon hours. Lately, one can leave Manhattan at 1:00 p.m. and still sit on the Long Island Expressway for two hours to drive just forty or fifty miles. Usually, the best time to drive east on the Long Island Expressway is between 10 am and 12 noon. After that, the nightmare begins. The same goes for heading west on the Long Island Expressway. However, the problem that many drivers will bump into is that highway work, such as lane closures, are widespread during the late morning and early afternoon hours, thus eliminating the break in traffic that can occur during the off-peak hours.

Long Island Expressway Alternates

Many people will avoid the Long Island Expressway at all costs. Other alternatives to the Long Island Expressway that travel East and West on Long Island include the Northern State and Southern State Parkways, Sunrise Highway, and then roads like 25, 25A, and 27A.  For those traveling on the North Shore of Long Island, the alternative is the Northern State Parkway. However, to take the Northern State Parkway, one must first, especially if they’re coming from Manhattan utilizing the FDR Drive and RFK Bridge, take the Grand Central Parkway to get to the Northern State Parkway or hop on the LIE from the Grand Central and take that to the first Northern State exit. But you still have to get on the LIE. If you think you can drive the side roads, everyone else has tried that too. It doesn’t work.

Yes, of course, you can connect to the Northern State Parkway from the Long Island Expressway if you use the Queensborough Bridge to Van Dam Street or Midtown Tunnel exits, but then you have to go through the worst stretch of Long Island Expressway to get to the Northern State. What’s that I hear?” Are you saying to take the FDR to the Bruckner, to the Throggs Neck Bridge, and to the Cross Island Parkway? Yeah, okay. You do that and get back to me about that experience on a weekday afternoon.

One must also be aware that the Northern State Parkway is a few miles longer because of its twists and turns. I would rather sit in traffic in a straight line on the LIE than on a parkway that goes north and south multiple times while heading east. You can blame that on Robert Moses and his inability to get people to move their houses out of the way of the Northern Parkway many, many years ago.

The Sothern State Parkway is no bundle of joy, and Sunrise Highway is full of lights on the west end. Please, please, you know better. Roads like 25, 25A or 27A will not work for a 50-mile stretch.

There is always the Long Island Railroad for those who don’t want to drive. It’s not as packed as it used to be, and the Grand Central Station is now in use for the LIRR. The big downside to the LIRR is its costs. However, if you consider the cost of gas and parking, it’s probably cheaper. Nonetheless, not everyone likes to ride on a train and sit next to strangers or experience the mad rush at Penn Station trying to get on a train when that magical track number finally appears on the screen. If you’re going to leave the city from Penn Station, I would advise using the Moynihan Train Hall instead.

Why Has Traffic Gotten Worse

Many people scratch their heads, wondering why traffic keeps getting worse. There are a couple of reasons for this. Reason number one is that fewer people are taking the LIRR and are now driving. Fear of COVID, crime, and just the frustration of lousy service, old trains, and rude people has fuelled the abandonment of the train commute for many people.

The proliferation of Uber drivers is possibly the biggest reason for more traffic, especially getting in and out of the city. This is by far the biggest problem, and it has increased traffic. Whenever I am driving in the city, I look at all the plates in front of me, and it’s as if two out of every three license plates start with a T, which defines an Uber driver. It has gotten really bad. Of course, the addition of bike lanes and outdoor restaurant seating extending into the street has taken away lanes that have increased traffic. This bottleneck slows everything down, keeping commercial trucks on the road past traditional work hours and extending rush hour. For every problem the city tries to fix, they fuel new ones.  It all adds up.

While writing this article, I experienced an earthquake here in New York that I had never experienced before; I was below the ground in a basement office. It was maybe one of the scariest moments I have ever experienced. This happened about a half hour ago, and I still feel shaken up. I have the news on and listening to all the reports of a 4.8 magnitude from Jersey, Yeah it figures it came from Jersey. I guess when you experience something like an earthquake where you, for a few seconds, actually fear for your life, complaining about traffic now seems like nonsense. 

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