Editorial: Old Tech, New Normal

In an increasingly modern, information-based economy, survival requires an ability to adapt to a changing environment.

On the other hand, those who shrink in the face of change will have the hardest time navigating this new normal. This week, TBR News Media had the chance to speak with several leaders from our region. Their warning was the same: Long Island is still unprepared to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, shared with us the history of transit systems on Long Island.

During the suburbanization of Long Island, regional planners failed to take into account the increase in population and the many cars that came with it. Today, we are paying the price for failed planning in the form of congested roads and endless traffic.

We’re so dependent on our cars that some well-meaning reformers are now suggesting we switch to electric cars here on Long Island — and across the country. This too has its drawbacks.

Kevin Beyer, vice president of government affairs at the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said promoting electric vehicles was unrealistic and expensive. The grid simply cannot accommodate an overnight increase in millions of electric vehicles, nor should we expect it.

Long Island’s boardwalk system is nearly a century old, but our commuters rely on this infrastructure every day to get to work. Without an updated public transit system, commuters on Long Island must choose between cramped train cars or congested road traffic. We expect antiquated transit systems to support the current mass of commuters.

Time and time again, Long Islanders apply outdated methods to modern problems. It’s like building a jet engine with stone tools.

However, all hope is not lost. For example, look no further than the Clerk’s Office in Smithtown, where you’ll find that the transition from old to new technologies is already underway. For 16 years, Clerk Vincent Puleo (C) has been working on digitizing paper files for electronic filing. This made the day-to-day operations of the office faster, simpler and more accessible to its constituents.

We need to apply Puleo’s approach elsewhere. We need to update our transportation systems to account for the many other drivers on our roads today. We need to invest in public transport, such as buses and boats for commuting, so that we are no longer helplessly delayed.

We have to accept the changes happening all around us, because change is the only constant in this life. And with all that being said, we should remember and learn from the ways of the past. Let history guide us as we move forward into the world of the new.