MEET A MEMBER: LC Secretary Daniel Chazin

How I Became Interested in Trains & Rail Transit

It was the passenger service operated on the New York & Long Branch Railroad that was largely responsible for my interest in trains and rail transit.

I grew up in Teaneck, where I still live. I was born in 1951, and passenger service on the West Shore Railroad, which provided service to Teaneck, wasn’t abandoned until 1959. But my father, who then worked in Jersey City, rarely (if ever) rode the West Shore trains, and I have no recollection of ever riding (or even watching) passenger trains on this line.

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Mahwah Celebrates Its Original Station

Take a look at the official seal for the Township of Mahwah. You will see a small yellow building with dark trim, obviously built during an earlier era. It is the town’s original train station, built in 1871, and located near the station in use today. It is easy to see from the train window if you look out the left side of the train, going toward New York State. Mahwah is the last stop in New Jersey, before Suffern.

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“Midtown Direct” at 25: A Remembrance

On Monday morning, June 10, 1996, trains on the Morris & Essex (M&E) Line rolled directly into New York’s Penn Station for the first time, and travel on the line changed forever. No longer would it be necessary to go to Hoboken and take a PATH train or a bus to get to Manhattan. Although some riders still go to Hoboken and some now take a ferry to the Financial District, many more take the M&E straight to Penn Station. It was the Kearny Connection, which links the M&E and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) at Swift Interlocking in the Meadowlands that made the new “Midtown Direct” route possible.

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James T. Raleigh (1934–2013)

It is with profound sadness that we note the passing of our Legislative Director, James T. Raleigh.

Jim was a scientist, a historian, and a great advocate.  He understood politics, and how officials make the decisions that affect our daily lives.  He made history through his brilliant strategies that helped to defeat New Jersey Transit’s plans to build a dead-end, deep-cavern terminal far below Midtown Manhattan—a plan that, at one time, only our organization believed would pose a detriment to the rail riders of our communities.  With Jim’s wisdom and advice, and with our hard work, we were able to build an alliance that kept the issue alive until Gov. Christie terminated the project in October 2010.

As an advocate for better transit, Jim cared deeply about our mobility. As a historian, he cared deeply about our heritage. As a scientist, he dedicated himself to the pursuit of truth.

Jim possessed an amazing understanding and knowledge of politics and the legislative process.  He had campaigned extensively in Trenton, and to a lesser extent in Washington, for better transit.  He made many statements and appearances at legislative hearings, community meetings, NJT Board meetings, and rail conferences.

Jim’s greatest achievement in advocacy was in planning and implementing the campaign to oppose the construction of a dead-end, deep-cavern terminal 20 stories below 34th St. in Midtown Manhattan, the result of changes in the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project.  With significant assistance from Coalition Technical Director Joseph M. Clift and other Coalition members, we were able to build an alliance with other rider advocacy organizations, convince some elected officials and media figures to oppose the project, and keep the issue alive until Gov. Chris Christie terminated the project in October 2010.

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River Line Repairs Enter Final Stage

In August 2011, Hurricane Irene struck the New Jersey area.  One of the casualties was the River Line light rail of NJ Transit, which operates between Trenton and Camden.  A hillside adjacent to the River Line tracks was extensively damaged, and the passing siding adjacent to the hillside was taken out of service.  Fortunately, the main track remained in service, albeit with speed restrictions.  However, without the passing siding, NJT was unable to operate rush-hour trains on the usual 15-minute headway; instead, the off-peak and weekend schedule of 30-minute headways has been provided ever since. (Three additional trains operate to Camden in the weekday morning rush, and three return in the evening, but only between Camden and Florence, not through the area damaged.)  To repair the damage required extensive engineering and construction work, removing the siding track and building a complex retaining wall to stabilize the hillside.  The repair work is now nearing completion; although NJT has not announced a date for resumption of full service, the final phase—reinstallation of the siding trackage—will begin on June 18, 2012.  Long-suffering commuters are hoping that full service won’t be far off.

The roadbed used by the River Line between Bordentown and Camden is one of the oldest railroad rights-of-way in the United States; service commenced by the Camden & Amboy Railroad in 1833, nearly 179 years ago!  At that time, the rail line formed a main route between Philadelphia and New York; travel involved a complex arrangement of stagecoaches and steamboats as well as the train.  Initially, the trip took 9-1/2 hours and cost t$3.  In 2012 money, it is estimated that is worth about $68.  Today, the River Line forms an economical route for travelers between New York and Philadelphia; total fare via NJ Transit is $18.30, including bus from Camden to Center City Philadelphia; the trip can be made in about 3 hours, depending on connections.  Alternatives include NJT to Trenton and SEPTA rail to Philadelphia, total fare about $25 and roughly 15 minutes faster; or Amtrak, 1-1/2 hours, $50 and up.