MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Rail experts predict many Long Island Rail Road commuters may be lost forever.

Right now, that is translating to more traffic – a huge burst of vehicles on Long Island, and even setting records on tunnels and bridges.

Traffic congestion is back on Long Island at levels not seen before the stay at home mandate in March.

“Now we’re back to honking horns, trying to find parking. It’s a problem,” one person told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

“It was just swatting flies,” said Aris Papangelopoulos of Triple P Auto Service in Mineola. Those “swatting flies” days are over for the shop.

“When the shutdown happened, I was here by myself,” he said.

His father decided to retire, while Aris weathered the storm. Now, with the burst of traffic, he’s back in business.

“Cars that were sitting for a long time weren’t running. Batteries were dead, tires were flat, wiper blades were no good, inspections were expired,” he said.

Vision Long Island reports an influx of new faces behind the wheel.

“The exodus of folks from New York City out to parts of Nassau, and certainly the East End, has added traffic on Long Island,” said Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island. “No one wants traffic, but traffic means people are going to work, that people are frequenting their downtowns and communities.”

Gasoline stations say their uptick in fill-ups includes parents taking kids to school.

It’s not just local traffic. The Long Island Expressway, Southern and Northern State Parkways are barely below last year’s level.

Transit experts attribute the return of motorists to the easing of pandemic restrictions, some schools and businesses reopening, and low ridership on the Long Island Rail Road.

“Social distancing on the train… I don’t have to deal with that if I’m just in my car,” one commuter said.

“I actually took the train into the city a couple weeks ago and the LIRR was completely empty,” said another.

Statistics point to overwhelming loss and reluctance to ride the rails. Business leaders fear those commuting patterns are here to say.

“People are abandoning public transportation. They’re using their vehicles to get to and from work, and if they are suffering from cabin fever, they’re going to jump in their vehicle,” said Robert Sinclair of AAA Northeast.

Commuter hopes for 2021? Ease the traffic, clean the air, and make public transportation safe.

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