The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How will Plainfield celebrate the one-seat ride?

The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869
was celebrated with a final, golden spike ... and a toast.

How will Plainfield celebrate the arrival of the one-seat ride to New York Penn Station on the Raritan Valley Line?

On March 3, a week from Monday, the grand experiment begins.

After years of pressure from the Raritan Valley Coalition, New Jersey Transit finally consented this past autumn to give the idea of a one-seat ride a trial.

The Coalition, in which commuter advocates and elected officials from towns along the Raritan Valley Line united to lobby for the upgraded service which has long been a staple feature of other NJT lines, has doggedly pursued its dream even when NJT appeared less than enthused with the idea.

With the use of combination electric/diesel locomotives, the only issue remaining is the question of the various lines sharing access to the limited number of slots for travel in the system's tunnels under the Hudson River.

That is, above all, a political question. Since Gov. Christie discarded the ARC tunnel project which would have expanded the number of tracks to NY, the game has become one of who has the sharpest elbows and carries the most weight.

The Raritan Valley Coalition has done a magnificent job getting to this point, but now the towns will have to show NJ Transit that the ridership is there to justify not only keeping the off-hours experiment, but expanding it.

So, what would be the appropriate way for Plainfield to celebrate the advent of the one-seat ride?

Brass bands and bunting?

A carful of elected officials and commuter advocates taking the ride in to Penn Station and returning (to, say, the Netherwood -- formerly Cafe Vivace) for a light lunch?

What are your thoughts?

And how impressed do you think NJ Transit will be if it's just another (yawn) commuting day?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.


Anonymous said...

The experiment in off-peak rides isn't only because of limited tunnels, it's because of the stress that additional trips will place on the Portal Bridge, built in 1910.

"What are the Portal Bridge’s current limitations? At present, the total bridge length is 960 feet with a swing span length of 300 feet, and has only 23 feet of clearance between mean high water (MHW) and the lowest steel elevation of the bridge. As a result, bridge openings are required to allow most marine vessels navigating the Hackensack River to pass through. The lengthy amount of time that is required to open and close the bridge for marine traffic interferes with both rail and marine operations. Also, frequent bridge openings increase the likelihood of mechanical malfunctions, which have caused the bridge to remain in the open position for inordinately long periods of time, causing system-wide delays in train service.

Is the bridge safe? The bridge is safe, but it requires ongoing costly maintenance and repairs. These can be viewed as interim solutions. However, increasing rail traffic and service improvements along the Northeast Corridor will further stress the aging structure’s condition and may not be able to support future transportation demand."

Anonymous said...

Hate to be a downer but celebrate what? An experiment that will affect a tiny group of part time riders during off-peak hours?

If and when some rush hour trains run to NYP they will be selective-stop expresses (hello Westfield, goodbye Netherwood). They will be very in-demand and therefore super crowded and will still have to stop at Newark for PATH and local jobs plus take on additional passengers that originate there. Yet more will board at Secaucus as they do now.

And what of the many PATH riders? They will still have to change in the morning regardless so no relief for them. In the evening, as it is now, they stand a good chance of getting a decent seat because all riders are equal at Newark where the RVL originates. But if they connect with NYP direct trains they'll have the exact same change-at-Newark nightmare but will have to fight for seats for the last leg home. Nice way to end the day, huh?

Changing at Newark once in a while is no big deal. Doing it for a couple of years is painful but won't kill you. Changing at Newark for an entire career is truly life-threatening and should be outlawed. But given the hard reality of limited track slots and still having to go through NWP it's very difficult to see how this experiment will translate into long term relief for the masses until a new tunnel and new platforms are built. That's what, a decade away, assuming no state pension fund or market meltdowns?

PS Note to realtors: If you show buyers reprints of the Ledger or C-N articles and intimate that full one-seat rides are imminent you should have your license pulled.

PPS: Jerry Green doesn't have a chance of becoming a congressman. Best consensus guess: Greenstein or Chivakula. Both of them have native constituencies in Middlesex and Mercer, the counties that would be hurt the most if their NJT lines have NYP track slots taken away.

Jeff said...

Its a huge yawn since it is not available during rush hour. Its not going to help the majority of travelers.

Anonymous said...

The success of this will mean so much for real estate in Plainfield! it has to work!