The Long Island Rail Road and Nassau Inter-County Express Bus are making significant strides to reduce their carbon footprints, with the LIRR testing battery-powered trains on its Oyster Bay branch to replace the diesel locomotives that have rumbled across the North Shore in the past, and NICE planning to bring six electric buses online to replace compressed-natural-gas models.
While on the electrified portion of the Oyster Bay branch, the LIRR trains run on the third rail. When they reach the non-electrified portion, they switch to battery power.
At the same time that NICE adds the electric buses, it will switch all 150 vehicles in its paratransit fleet to electric. Excellent!
All of this was discussed last Friday during an hour-long talk on public transportation at Vision Long Island’s annual Smart Growth Summit, at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. We can only say bravo to Phil Eng, the LIRR president, and Jack Khouz, CEO of NICE Bus, for demonstrating a commitment to the environment by moving away from dirty fossil-fuel transportation to electric rail and bus lines.
Diesel trains are especially awful for the environment, using one of the dirtiest of fuels. Diesel is also among the most carcinogenic substances on the planet, according to numerous federal agencies. Diesel trains simply shouldn’t exist in the 21st century.
The LIRR began testing battery-powered trains on the Oyster Bay branch in April. Let’s hope the eight-month test period is successful, so the other three diesel branches — Montauk, Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma — can become fully electrified as well.
Of course, we must ask ourselves how the electricity to power our trains and buses is being generated — from fossil-fuel power plants or renewable resources such as solar, wind and geothermal? Renewable is the way forward.