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Mystic River Dragon

Princeton Council Meeting will address Dinky situation

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The Princeton Council has invited Tom Clarke from NJT to address the council at its meeting this Monday, October 8, at 7:00 p.m.

 

The address of the meeting is 400 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ.

 

The agenda also lists a resolution to protest the suspension of the Dinky.

 

I'd like to go but can't (I'll be in CT) but am passing this on if anyone in the area is interested.

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I was away and was at Princeton Junction for the first time in over a week yesterday, so just caught up with this.

 

In spite of sensible points made at the meeting, and what sounds like a very polite crowd (the full report is in the Town Topics local newspaper for October 10, but I can't get the link to post, and it might be longer than a fair use quote anyway), NJT has suspended the Dinky. Of course they have--they planned to all along. They are giving a 10 percent reduction in NJT fares, which is not what Dinky riders need--they need the train into Princeton!

 

They said they needed the extra cars and crew for other places while they work on PTC. Two ancient cars and one conductor and one engineer. Two of the nicest guys I've met who work for NJT. (Ok, a few more than that for different shifts--but not enough to save NJT from itself.) And now they have to bid again for the Dinky, which is apparently one of the most popular routes to work, when it resumes, and will have stiff competition.

 

There is a bus--I saw it this morning, and it's okay. Not provided by NJT, of course--it's a Tiger Transit or something like that provided either by the town or the university. One person boarded it. As opposed to a crowd boarding the Dinky during the same time period.

 

My older commuter friends who regularly take the Dinky were nowhere in sight. Either they are getting rides, or working from home, or saying "I love my job, but I'm retiring because of NJT messing up my commute." They are not taking the bus. Some of them commute from Philly. Two trains and an hour and a half later, and they are supposed to wait out in the cold (and eventually probably snow and ice) for a bus?

 

Usually, I make jokes about NJT and just roll my eyes when they do the next ridiculous thing. But this time I am absolutely furious :angry2:. What they've done is mean-spirited and just plain nasty, with no need to have done it at all. :(

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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Well that's a real shame. At least it's "only" for three months. The NY Subway L train is being suspended for at least 15 months, starting in April. :wacko:

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NJTransit currently has no plans for acquiring any equipment as replacement for the Arrow IIIs that can be used on the Princeton Branch.

 

They plan to acquire multi-level power cars for use in conjunction with the multi-level trailers to replace the Arrow IIIs. Minimum unit length in this setup will be three (multi-level) cars. Multi-level cars are too heavy for the Princeton Branch.

 

This suggests that their implicit plan is to discontinue rail service on the Princeton Branch and replace them with buses in the long term..

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That is very interesting news, jis.

 

NJT would essentially be discontinuing service for some of their best, steadiest, and (in some cases) richest riders. And what a good reason: no equipment left that will work!

 

I don't think the university as an entity cares all that much (after all, they got the line shortened a bit in Princeton just to put up an arts center, which could have been plopped anywhere). But some of the parents with kids there do.

 

The people in the town do, as well, especially wealthy commuters and wealthy people who have children who commute.

 

If they go through with this, and NJT stops the Dinky completely, do you think it's possible that a private group could come along and run their own train on it? This is one of the richest and most transit-oriented places in NJ--could that work? Who owns the tracks? Amtrak? That would be the main hurdle, I think. But the money is most certainly there.

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NJT owns the tracks, I believe. They have shown unremitting and irrational hostility to the Princeton branch for decades. The university administration may not care (because they're wildly out of touch, like most university administrations), but the faculty, students, and local government do care.

 

This means Princeton loses one of the recruitment advantages it *used* to have versus other Ivy League schools. Expect Penn and Columbia to get better students and teachers and Princeton to get worse students after this change, and I'm not kidding. Probably won't help Cornell though, we're even harder to get to.

Edited by neroden

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Thanks for the information on the tracks, neroden.

 

I've been thinking about this, and NJT owning the tracks might be best after all. It means going through just one layer of bureaucracy (NJT) instead of two (NJT and Amtrak).

 

They have saved the Dinky before so hopefully will be able to do it again :).

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A change.org petition will have exactly zero effect on the future of the Dinky. That is my prediction.

Let's not kid ourselves. Unless something changes fundamentally - like Princeton U taking a positive interest in it, the Dinky is pretty much on its last legs. It is not a question of "if" but "when".  As I mentioned earlier, there is no plan for acquiring any equipment that can be used for running the Dinky once the Arrow IIIs are retired.

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The petition was to stop the change in the first place, so that is in the past now.

If possession is 9/10ths of the law, then the most important thing is that, at the end of this "temporary" period, the Dinky equipment is returned.

Aren't those old cars pretty durable? If VIA Rail can keep things going forever, it is just possible these can go on for a while longer.

Even without the university, don't count the rest of Princeton out, jis. We will have to wait and see what happens, but I do not believe they will go quietly!

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2 hours ago, Mystic River Dragon said:

Aren't those old cars pretty durable? If VIA Rail can keep things going forever, it is just possible these can go on for a while longer. 

Even without the university, don't count the rest of Princeton out, jis. We will have to wait and see what happens, but I do not believe they will go quietly!

The Arrows are slated for becoming razor blades as soon as NJT manages to order the proposed multilevel power cars and additional MLV trailers, to create EMU sets (one MLP (with Cba?)  + 1 MLV + 1 MLC (Cab) ) out of existing MLV trailers and those new power cars. There is no plan to get any equipment that will be light enough to be able to run on the PJ&B (Princeton Junction and Back - an old somewhat tongue in the cheek name for the little branch). These would be in addition to loco powered trailer trains.

Princeton Township has been remarkably fragmented and ineffectual in anything that it has doe so far relative to the Princeton Branch service. Maybe they'll change some day.

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9 hours ago, jis said:

The Arrows are slated for becoming razor blades as soon as NJT manages to order the proposed multilevel power cars and additional MLV trailers, to create EMU sets (one MLP (with Cba?)  + 1 MLV + 1 MLC (Cab) ) out of existing MLV trailers and those new power cars. There is no plan to get any equipment that will be light enough to be able to run on the PJ&B (Princeton Junction and Back - an old somewhat tongue in the cheek name for the little branch). These would be in addition to loco powered trailer trains.

Princeton Township has been remarkably fragmented and ineffectual in anything that it has doe so far relative to the Princeton Branch service. Maybe they'll change some day.

Curious what the "light enough" issue is with the Princeton Branch. Is there a load limited structure that precludes use of multilevel EMU's?

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Here is my understanding of the situation after checking with the guys who are dealing with this more closely than I am at NJ-ARP:

There are a couple of bridges whose foundations and pillars need significant work for them to be able to safely carry anything heavier than the Arrows. Everything that NJT has in the way of current rolling stock other than Comet trailers are heavier, and there is no plan to acquire anything that is not.

Additional issue with MLV EMUs is that the MLP (Multi Level Power) cars that are under consideration are all cabless (my original that is quoted by PRR has wrong info. I have corrected it in my original post). So the shortest EMU unit that can be put together that can operate bi-directionally is three cars, and no one will ever dedicate three MLVs to the Dinky, even if they could find the big bucks to fix the bridges.

Of course, if there is a will there is always a way, the easiest and cheapest probably is to lease a Silverliner V from SEPTA. A generally transit friendly local government(s) should probably be gunning to convert it to a detached light rail operation possibly extending it further along streets into Princeton township and beyond. But the current problem is that all the powers that be apparently want this line gone, so they are all busy willfully doing things that makes it more and more untenable so that they can finally put the last nail in its coffin.

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For decades Princeton Borough was in favor of keeping the line, and they were even backing turning it into LRT and extending it on local streets (though they never got the funding).

Who got to them?  I see they merged with the Township in 2011-2013.  Probably a bad idea.  The Township was actually pretty supportive too for a long time though, so what happened?  University administration just kept strongarming them, I guess?

There was a final report in 2015 recommending a $45 million streetcar conversion / extension.  Of course it's been ignored.  I am not kidding when I say that Princeton is going to start declining; one of the few things it had going for it vs. other Ivy League college towns was the public transportation, which is disappearing.  Getting there by car is hell.  The Walkable Princeton blog has been kind of depressed for the last few years, as nearly every action by the muncipality has been backwards and retrograde.

Edited by neroden

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Not only getting there by car, but parking, too, is a nightmare.

One problem is perhaps that, being an intellectual area, they keep studying things instead of actually taking action.

And if you are continuing to study things, and NJT takes immediate action to kill you off, you don't stand much of a chance.:(

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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I just received one of NJT's routine surveys.

When they asked what my destination station is and how I get there, I chose Princeton and the Dinky. Figuring that I would answer for one of my friends who will not see the survey and actually does this.

In the comment box at the end, my inner Jersey Girl came out and I let them have an earful:angry:. I told them that NJT has one of the lowest reputations of all commuter rails and that they should go back and learn from when it had one of the best. I also told them to stop making excuses for themselves and to shape up.

 

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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