Report from the Chair

RAILGRAM Nov-Dec 2022v3

Our Website update had the unexpected consequence of knocking our forum offline temporarily—we are getting that restored to its old spot on the original Website, as connecting it to the new site will take some creativity and technical magic (we do have someone working on the latter option; watch for updates as we figure out what is possible). What is working well on the new site is our updated Station Inspection form. The Lackawanna Coalition is reviving our 1990s practice of checking on station conditions and reporting our findings. Members will be watching their local stations, and we hope all our readers will take advantage of the form to let us know what is good or bad at their local station and at others that they visit, so that we can compile information for NJ Transit. We and NJ-ARP have been advocating for riders for a long time, and with your help in documenting station conditions, we can make our case—and yours—at NJ Transit.

Earlier this month, I attended a virtual meeting held by our host municipality, Millburn Township, about planned improvements around the Short Hills train station. Although I looked for the video recording on the town website, it has apparently not yet been posted, so my thoughts later in this article are from my participation late in the program. What was clear is that community suggestions are being accepted and given due consideration.

Short Hills Station Traffic Improvements Planned

Checking on room availability for our October meeting, I noticed two information-gathering sessions by the Millburn town council: one in person, on October 26, and one virtual, on November 1. The sessions were listed as discussions of the concept plan for proposed pedestrian and circulation improvements in the vicinity of the Short Hills train station. Consideration is being given to traffic and parking patterns at busy intersections near the station. Residents are being asked for their perspectives on the plans that are being developed, as well as their own suggestions and concerns. Although I could attend only the last half of the online presentation, it was clear that residents were engaged and informed, with questions raised about pedestrian safety, congestion, and pick-up locations. Both automobile routes and pedestrian pathways are being considered to ensure the optimum decisions are reached. Residents provided information based on their experience with the Short Hills station and its surrounding roads and intersections.

The portion of the meeting that I attended covered the western side of the station, and a possible one-way traffic pattern was discussed. Questions were raised about possible unintended consequences of drivers finding short-cuts to avoid a longer one-way trip. One resident suggested that an additional, onsite session at the Boxcar at the station would be helpful, and that suggestion was well-received. It is clear that the planners are putting a lot of thought into the options to make arrival, departure, and movement through the area as efficient as possible for pedestrians, rail passengers, and motorists alike.

Remembering Maureen Ogden

From the early 1970s, Maureen Ogden was greatly interested in environmental issues. She was a member of the Citizens League for Environmental Action Now as well as the Millburn Environmental Commission, of which she became chairperson.

Maureen Ogden was elected to a 3-year term on the Millburn Township Committee in 1975 and to a second term in 1978. In 1979, she was elected Mayor of Millburn (the town’s first female mayor) and her attention turned to the deterioration of service on the Morris and Essex (M&E) line and the need for reëlectrification of the M&E. Mayor Ogden initiated a meeting of counties and municipalities along the M&E to develop a consensus to make improvements in rail service, to promote safety of service, and to expedite reëlectrification of the M&E line.

This was the impetus for the formation of the Lackawanna Coalition, which was incorporated shortly before NJ Transit’s own incorporation in July 1979.

Continue Reading Remembering Maureen Ogden

Study Highlights Transit-Oriented Development

Once upon a time, trolley lines built amusement parks at the end of their lines to encourage ridership.  The modern-day equivalent may be the “Transit Village”: development at transit hubs, where transit users can live, work, or shop just steps from their train or bus.  A report due out on September 24 by New Jersey Future assesses development opportunities at New Jersey transit hubs, according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (September 22).

Recently, NJ Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson attended a ceremony to name an old railroad town (Dunellen in Middlesex County, on NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line) the state’s 26th Transit Village, a community built around a transit hub.  The forthcoming report from New Jersey Future has been 3-1/2 years in progress under the group’s research director, Tim Evans.  Some interesting statistics dot the report:

  • the highest population densities in the state can be found in Hoboken near Hoboken Terminal and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail;
  • several Newark Light Rail stations are in areas where less than 1/3 of households have a vehicle;
  • stations with the highest home values include Millburn, Summit, and Peapack on the Morris & Essex Lines; and, unbelievably to some motorists,
  • there are NJT Rail stations where less than 1/3 of parking spaces are typically occupied (Point Pleasant Beach on the North Jersey Coast; Cinnaminson and Florence on the River Line Light Rail).

An example of a burgeoning Transit Village is Morristown on the M&E, with the newly-constructed Highlands at Morristown Station apartment building development.