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20 Years of New Jersey Transit Rail Operations


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#1 Viewliner

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Posted 31 December 2002 - 11:56 PM

At 12:30 am it will mark 20 years since the first NJ Transit Departure out of Hoboken Terminal, on January 1, 1983 on the Morris and Essex Lines. I'd like to congratulate NJT on a job well done.

Accomplishments Include:
Re-electrified Morris and Essex Lines
Electrification on the North Jersey Coast line extended from South Amboy to Long Brancch
Modernized Equipment
Improved Station Accesibility
MidTOWN Direct Service (Morris and Essex Lines and Montclair-Booton Line thanks to the Montclair Connection)
New Service to Newark International Airport Station
Constructing new station in Hamilton

Under Construction: Union, Secaucus Transfer, Montclair State University

We lost the "lower" Booton line and some service consequently, but overall I think NJT has done a great job and is a role model for other transit systems nation wide.

Any Additional Statements? Comments?

Happy New Year!!!
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#2 Superliner Diner

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Posted 01 January 2003 - 12:44 AM

How about the Waterfront Connection, which is the reverse of the Kearny Connection (later renamed Midtown Direct) ?? That one brings trains from the North Jersey Coast and Raritan Valley Lines into Hoboken Terminal.

#3 Superliner Diner

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Posted 01 January 2003 - 12:56 AM

Just to avoid some confusion, or perhaps to create some, NJ TRANSIT was actually created in the late 1970's. They first took over the state's ailing bus operations, merging Transport of New Jersey with Maplewood Equipment Company, and taking over several other smaller companies along the way to create the statewide bus network they run today.

Conrail had been operating train service in NJ since 1976, and with the creation of NJ TRANSIT they continued to do so, with NJT as their operating arm from 1980 onward. Equipment did show NJT colors and logos (along with the old NJ DOT red arrow logo, hence the name "Arrow" for the electric MU coaches). Conrail went out of the commuter rail business with the start of 1983, with most regional agencies taking over full responsibility on January 1, 1983.

So the 20-year anniversary is just for full operation on their own of the commuter network; the involvement with the trains goes back about three more years.

#4 Viewliner

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Posted 01 January 2003 - 10:56 AM

Thanks for the clarification Superliner Diner, I was aware that NJ Transit had existed in the '70s for bus runs, but not how it gradually began rail service.

And yes I forgot about the waterfront connection, being on the Morris and Essex Lines, I tend to forget some things done on the other routes.

What about beginning (taking-over) service on (Amtrak's, which operated for a period of time) Atlantic City line?

Overall, how does everyone think NJ Transit is doing?
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#5 AlanB

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Posted 01 January 2003 - 01:13 PM

Overall, how does everyone think NJ Transit is doing?

Well while I don't think that NJT has done a horrible job, I do think that they could have done better. As you and SD pointed out there have been several major milestones achieve lately.

On the other hand there have been some milestones that could have been achieved, some projects that are desperately needed that haven't even been started, and at least one that people are wondering why it was ever started.

First is the by now almost infamous Southern New Jersey Light Rail Transit System (SNJLRTS), which many are now asking why was this ever built? There is a real concern here that this line may never achieve the projected ridership, and could end up being a waste of money.

Then we have the improvement project for the Pascack Valley line. This project will add passing sidings, signal improvements, and other things to the line. This is something that is desperately needed for this line. NJT however has said that they don't have enough people to do that work, in conjunction with the Secaucus transfer. Yet when they slowed down the work on the Secaucus transfer after 9/11, none of the extra workers was assigned to start work on the Pascack Valley line.

Then perhaps one of the biggest oversights is the Lackawanna Cutoff project. NJT is really dragging their feet on this one. Pennsylvania has ponied up their share of the funds for this project, but NJ and NJT have yet to come up with their share. This is a serious problem, as for lack of NJT finding about 2 - 3 million, the project is about to loose the ability to qualify for Federal grants.

These federal grants would provide much of the needed monies to get this line up and running by 2006. Yet NJT is about to loose out on these grants, in part because of the money I mentioned above, and in part because they have yet to reach an agreement with PA about operating the service.

NJT just passed on a deal to try and restore passenger service to the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad. They also are not pursuing building a third and possibly a fourth tunnel under the Hudson River fast enough, in my opinion.

Yes I realize that all these projects do cost money, money that NJT does not have. However, I have to question the wisdom of letting a federal grant go down the tubes for lack of a relatively small amount of money. Then there is all the money spent on SNJLRTS, a line that even people within NJT are now questioning the need for. The money spent there could easily have gotten the Lackawanna Cutoff project started, if not finished.
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#6 Viewliner

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Posted 01 January 2003 - 03:06 PM

I completely agree with you, somebody has made some poor decisions, and unlike Amtrak, you really can't completely blame Warrington. I'd like to have seen some of these projects done, just as much as you do, and its really a shame.
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#7 Superliner Diner

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Posted 02 January 2003 - 01:20 AM

What about beginning (taking-over) service on (Amtrak's, which operated for a period of time) Atlantic City line?

Good question.

Some of NJ TRANSIT's first official acts were the abandonment of several rail lines. By 1983, the NJDOT/NJT duo had succeeded in wiping out the West Trenton Line (which at one point brought SEPTA trains through New Jersey to Bound Brook, then over the Raritan Valley Line (RVL) route into Newark. In later years, it was a separate train requiring a transfer in West Trenton), the old Atlantic City Line (exclusively east of Lindenwold, and it also had branches to Ocean City and Cape May), service beyond High Bridge to Phillipsburg on the RVL, and the remnants of service on the old Central RR of NJ -- a shuttle train connecting the RVL at Cranford with Elizabeth (downstairs from the NEC line station) and over a bridge into Bayonne.

These are all decisions which have been second-guessed in recent years. Bayonne service is impossible because the lift bridge over Newark Bay is out. There is a seasonal tourist type operation called Cape May Seashore Lines which runs the Cape May service, but only within Cape May County. There are talks of one day extending it to Winslow Junction so it can connect with the existing NJ TRANSIT Atlantic City Line. As population moves westward in NJ and even with some New York City-area commuters now living in Pennsylvania, the re-extension of the RVL back to Phillipsburg and possibly into Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley has a lot more merit than it did 20 years ago.

NJ TRANSIT has studies on its website about re-activating the West Trenton Line, since population and business have soared in the Route 1 Corridor. What had been perceived a self-competition (the thought was that stations in places like Pennington and Hopewell would take commuters away from Princeton Junction and other NEC stations) is now a larger necessity since the NEC stations, trains, and parking are all at capacity.

Which brings us to your question, the Atlantic City Line (ACL). Amtrak wanted to get into this business, and in fact they led the project to restore the line for service. Residents of the towns along which the trains would pass complained that this so-called "Gamblers Express" would make noise, cause delays and danger at grade crossings, but not serve them. NJ TRANSIT entered the fray, promising to provide local service to those residents so that they could take the train to gamble as well. Amtrak began its service in the early part of 1989, providing service mainly to points along the NEC as far north as Springfield and as far south as Richmond. They later converted one of the Harrisburg-Philadelphia Keystone round trips into a through Harrisburg-Philadelphia-Atlantic City train. They also provided, at the time, the only service from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to Atlantic City. NJ TRANSIT began in September of the same year (1989) and appeased the locals along the way; although at the start they did not operate west of Lindenwold.

But neither railroad prospered from the service, particularly because they were in competition with each other (particularly PHL-ACY) and with the casino buses. The latter were offering all types of incentives to their customers, while the rail lines either did not, or were in cahoots with one particular casino that some passengers did not want to patronize.

Both carriers had plenty of empty seats, and had to find ways to fill them. The Cherry Hill station was added later, and both carriers stopped there, figuring on business from the now-defunct horse track there. Amtrak went into a short-lived code share arrangement with Midway Airlines, and extended some of their trains beyond 30th Street Station over SEPTA R1 trackage into Philadelphia International Airport. Amtrak was the connecting "flight" from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. I think the airline died before Amtrak's Atlantic City Line service did.

In the end, there was not enough business for two railroads in town, and by the spring of 1992 Amtrak had pulled out of Atlantic City, leaving just NJ TRANSIT as the sole operator. At the same time, NJT began operating all of its trains into Philadelphia. They entered into a Thruway-type of arrangement with Amtrak that still exists today -- you can book an Amtrak trip through to NJT Atlantic City Line points and get your tickets from Amtrak.

NJT still does not do splendid business on the ACL, but when there are conventions in town (the new convention center is in the same building as the rail station), they do fill up the trains. Much of the business is casino employees, who work all types of odd shifts and require almost 24-hour service. Interestingly, there is almost no Philadelphia market on this train -- most of the ridership is oriented to Atlantic City. Commuters to PHL prefer the PATCO high-speed line and the more direct bus service.

#8 Viewliner

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Posted 02 January 2003 - 05:40 PM

Thanks for the explanation of the Atlantic City Line, it was both interesting and informative. I have noticed these stations listed on the Amtrak Website. Any other points about the 20 years of operations?

I'd like to see some of these proposals for new and expanded service happen (wouldn't we all). Particularlly that Lackawanna Cutoff (since its on my line). It would interesting, although it will probably never happen to see both diesel lines electrified and ride a MidTOWN Direct (via the M&E) to Grand Central (from Millburn/Short Hills) or Pennsylvania.

Getting back to the ACL, is it possible to run a train directly from New York/Newark to (Philly and) Atlantic City (requiring an engine change of course)? If so, it would be nice to see a direct train between New York (or Newark being more likely since they wouldn't need to change engines) to Atlantic City once NJ Transit takes over the clockers in 2006.

By the way how is the outlook on that so far?
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#9 Superliner Diner

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Posted 02 January 2003 - 09:58 PM

Thanks for the explanation of the Atlantic City Line, it was both interesting and informative.  I have noticed these stations listed on the Amtrak Website.  Any other points about the 20 years of operations?

I'd like to see some of these proposals for new and expanded service happen (wouldn't we all).  Particularlly that Lackawanna Cutoff (since its on my line).  It would interesting, although it will probably never happen to see both diesel lines electrified and ride a MidTOWN Direct (via the M&E) to Grand Central (from Millburn/Short Hills) or Pennsylvania.

Getting back to the ACL, is it possible to run a train directly from New York/Newark to (Philly and) Atlantic City (requiring an engine change of course)?  If so, it would be nice to see a direct train between New York (or Newark being more likely since they wouldn't need to change engines) to Atlantic City once NJ Transit takes over the clockers in 2006.

By the way how is the outlook on that so far?

Been there, done that. Amtrak ran trains from New York and Newark to Atlantic City, by way of Philadelphia. (This was the train later extended up to New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield.) Obviously, with the prohibition of diesels in the tunnels around New York City, and the requirement for diesels once on the Atlantic City Line, an engine change had to be made. It was easiest to do this at 30th Street Station in PHL, where Amtrak makes changes anyway for its Keystone trains, as well as the Three Rivers, Crescent, and most (if not all) of the Florida service.

During the early years, this engine change (and required direction change as well due to the configuration of the Shore Interlocking, which sits underneath where the NEC passes underneath the SEPTA Market-Frankford Elevated) was done at Frankford Junction, which was then a SEPTA R7 commuter station but later closed.

Now your question using the word "directly" could have implied you wanted to know if the NJT trains could get between Newark, Trenton, and Atlantic City without leaving New Jersey. Well the track it would have used to get from Trenton to the southern part of the state is now being redeveloped as the Southern New Jersey DLRT line, so the possibility of commuter trains running the same route is over forever. The only way to get between this line and the ACL is a wrong-way track connection that would have required trains to back over the connection in order to be facing the right way. You can see it from the ACL just east of the Delair Bridge. Personally, I would have liked to see that corridor built as an NJT commuter rail line instead of a 34-mile DLRT line; that way trains could essentially have just continued beyond Trenton, and would just originate or terminate in Newark or Hoboken on the northern end. But it's too late for that.

Regarding the Clockers, there was once a deal announced, which later went noplace, to coordinate the schedules of Amtrak's Clocker service with that of the ACL commuter trains, and to have the latter begin stopping at the North Philadelphia station. Doing so would eliminate at least some of the backtracking involved if the connection were made at 30th Street Station. But ideally reactivating Frankford Junction for this purpose (the typical low-level SEPTA platforms are still there but unused) would be the best. North Philadelphia is so bad a location that Amtrak closed its ticket office -- it's not the place you want to be changing trains.

I don't know how much will change when NJ TRANSIT takes over the Clocker service. What will work for NJT is that to cycle their equipment up to and back from the Meadowlands Maintenance Complex for routine maintenance, they would no longer have to deadhead the ACL equipment since it will be in revenue to/from PHL. I believe this is now accomplished with the several diesel runs that run on weekdays out of Trenton to Newark (there is no other logical reason to run diesels on an electric line) -- but obviously they are still deadheading between 30th Street Station and Trenton.

#10 Viewliner

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Posted 02 January 2003 - 10:10 PM

Okay, thanks. By directly, I meant without direction change, but as any NJT map will clearly show you, its necessary.

Opinion Question: If (big if) NJT were to electrify their diesel lines (a candidate project), which line do you think would be first to be electrified?

In thinking about it I would think NJT would finish the NJCL (Why wasn't it extended to Bay Head?), and the Montclair-Booton line, but then what?
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#11 AlanB

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Posted 02 January 2003 - 10:35 PM

Actually I think that one of the first lines NJT wants to try to electrify is the Raritan Valley line. However, I would also like to see the rest of the Boonton line, along with the Coast line finished. Then they can start to work on the Bergan line.

Now to come back to your other question, getting from NY to AC without a backup move. While I'm not 100% positive, with some work I do think that service could be restored direct from NYC to AC. There is a line that branches off from the Coast line right around Red Bank. The upper portion of this line is part of the potential MOM project, that NJT is currently considering.

This line runs in a southwest direction thru Farmingdale, Lakewood, and Lakehurst down to Woodmansie. From Woodmansie to Winslow Junction a distance of about 20 miles, the line had been abandoned. Winslow Junction however, is where this line if restored would tie into the AC line.
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#12 Viewliner

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 11:08 AM

Sounds like a good plan, as is the Lackawanna Cutoff (which I hope gets off the ground).

Thanks for answering that part, too bad a direction change is required in Philly, otherwise it would be a decent route.
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#13 Superliner Diner

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Posted 04 January 2003 - 09:00 PM

Actually I think that one of the first lines NJT wants to try to electrify is the Raritan Valley line. However, I would also like to see the rest of the Boonton line, along with the Coast line finished. Then they can start to work on the Bergan line.

Now to come back to your other question, getting from NY to AC without a backup move. While I'm not 100% positive, with some work I do think that service could be restored direct from NYC to AC. There is a line that branches off from the Coast line right around Red Bank. The upper portion of this line is part of the potential MOM project, that NJT is currently considering.

This line runs in a southwest direction thru Farmingdale, Lakewood, and Lakehurst down to Woodmansie. From Woodmansie to Winslow Junction a distance of about 20 miles, the line had been abandoned. Winslow Junction however, is where this line if restored would tie into the AC line.

At some of the MOM rallies and Central Jersey Rail Coalition meetings I have attended, they did mention the possibilities of running trains not only to Lakehurst as planned for the MOM project, but continuing south to Atlantic City via Winslow. This was the route of the Blue Comet, way back in CRRofNJ days.

#14 Superliner Diner

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Posted 04 January 2003 - 09:06 PM

Okay, thanks. By directly, I meant without direction change, but as any NJT map will clearly show you, its necessary.

Opinion Question: If (big if) NJT were to electrify their diesel lines (a candidate project), which line do you think would be first to be electrified?

In thinking about it I would think NJT would finish the NJCL (Why wasn't it extended to Bay Head?), and the Montclair-Booton line, but then what?

I agree that the North Jersey Coast Line should probably be the next line to be electrified, that is, below Long Branch where electrification currently ends. When the project was being done taking the electric service from Matawan to Long Branch, there was talk of going to Asbury Park, which was just building their Howard Transportation Center. However Asbury Park is a dead city -- it's no longer a tourist destination and would not be a strong commuter stop either. So I say go all the way to Bay Head, or at least to the second-to-last station, Point Pleasant Beach, whose station sits just 4 blocks from a busy beachfront (at least in the summer), and in a vibrant downtown district.

#15 Viewliner

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Posted 04 January 2003 - 10:09 PM

Okay, thanks.  By directly, I meant without direction change, but as any NJT map will clearly show you, its necessary.

Opinion Question:  If (big if) NJT were to electrify their diesel lines (a candidate project), which line do you think would be first to be electrified?

In thinking about it I would think NJT would finish the NJCL (Why wasn't it extended to Bay Head?), and the Montclair-Booton line, but then what?

I agree that the North Jersey Coast Line should probably be the next line to be electrified, that is, below Long Branch where electrification currently ends. When the project was being done taking the electric service from Matawan to Long Branch, there was talk of going to Asbury Park, which was just building their Howard Transportation Center. However Asbury Park is a dead city -- it's no longer a tourist destination and would not be a strong commuter stop either. So I say go all the way to Bay Head, or at least to the second-to-last station, Point Pleasant Beach, whose station sits just 4 blocks from a busy beachfront (at least in the summer), and in a vibrant downtown district.

Didn't Electrification end at South Amboy before being extended to Long Branch? Anyone know why only South Amboy-Long Branch was electrified and not Long Branch-Bay Head?

I like the prospect of reviving the route of the Blue Comet (in the sense of it).
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#16 Superliner Diner

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Posted 05 January 2003 - 08:43 AM

Viewliner wrote:

Didn't Electrification end at South Amboy before being extended to Long Branch? Anyone know why only South Amboy-Long Branch was electrified and not Long Branch-Bay Head?

I like the prospect of reviving the route of the Blue Comet (in the sense of it).

Electrification ended at South Amboy for many many years. Businesses in South Amboy near the tracks thrived on this, as people ran into the bars and convenience stores for a quick purchase while the engine change was taking place.

Matawan (now called Aberdeen-Matawan) was an interim extension which lasted a few years before they went all the way to Long Branch.

As to why the electrification does not go further, the ridership does drop off, particularly in the colder months, south of Long Branch. Of course as we've seen by the openings of Midtown Direct and the Montclair-Boonton Line, and advent of a one-seat ride to New York Penn Station could stimulate new ridership.




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