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.

Essex County Transportation Plan 2045 Comes to Lackawanna Coalition

On October 24, David Antonio, Director of Planning for Essex County, came to the Lackawanna Coalition meeting to present Essex County’s “Essex 2045” transportation project. The project is to create a plan for all aspects of transportation in Essex County and to have a vision for what Essex Country transportation will be like in the next 20 years. A grant for this project came from North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. The previous plan was the Essex County Comprehensive Plan of June 2013.

Input on improving public transportation was, of course, the reason for Mr. Antonio’s invitation. Gathering of public input comes through a web-based application via survey questions and a mapping tool. A major point of the presentation was pedestrian safety. Bloomfield Avenue is one of the busiest and most dangerous streets in New Jersey. Although upgraded infrastructure has been installed on Bloomfield Avenue in recent years, more work needs to be done to ensure pedestrian safety.

After the presentation, Lackawanna Coalition members gave comments. Some highlights: improving bus service on Bloomfield Avenue; pedestrian crossings working properly, including audio and visual countdown clocks; more weekend service on Montclair-Boonton line, Newark light rail, and various New Jersey Transit bus routes.

Essex County can be a leader in improving public transportation in New Jersey. Essex County is second densest and third most populated county in New Jersey. Multiple rail lines run through the county. Newark is a hub for multiple transportation modes, and two-fifths of residents do not own an automobile.

Submit your input on Essex 2045 by the end of the year. To do so, you can send e-mail messages to essex2045@gmail.com. Also, all are welcome to use the county’s survey and mapping tool: https://bit.ly/Essex- Survey

For more information on the program, go to the Essex County Department of Public Works site: http://www.ecdpw.org/essex-2045.php.

Talking Crossing Gates to be Tested

After 3 teenagers were killed by trains in 2 incidents on successive days in October 2011, NJ Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson convened a task force of experts to find ways to improve grade-crossing safety. (Two of the youths died not at a grade crossing, but while trespassing on a railroad trestle, on a line that sees no scheduled train traffic on the Sunday of the tragedy.) The death of 13-year-old Michael Cabaj involved a too-often-repeated scenario: on a double track rail line, one train passes and pedestrians attempt to cross, unaware of an approaching train on the second track, this time at the Outwater Lane crossing in Garfield.  Now, that crossing will receive an experimental system, according to Mike Frassinelli’s article in the Star-Ledger (Sept. 22): when a second train is coming, a talking sign will shout an audible warning: “Danger! Another train coming!” Other improvements include “skirts” below crossing gates to discourage pedestrians from ducking under the gates: these are being tried at the Aberdeen-Matawan station on the North Jersey Coast line.