Weekend Trains Return to the Gladstone Branch

After an absence of 2 years and 8 months, weekend train service returned to the Gladstone Branch on June 6. Trains run hourly as shuttles between Gladstone and Summit, connecting there with Morris & Essex Line trains between Dover and New York Penn Station. For Hoboken or Montclair passengers, there is a train connecting at Broad Street Station in Newark approximately every other hour. The schedule is similar to the one in effect until October 2018, when substitute bus operation began. Running time is 44 minutes eastbound and 54 minutes westbound, compared with 57 minutes eastbound and 62 minutes westbound for the bus operation.

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Raritan Valley Riders Get One-Seat Ride to NYC, At Least Some of the Time

For the first time in history, riders on the Raritan Valley Line (RVL) can enjoy a one-seat ride between their home stations and Penn Station, New York. The new service started on Monday, March 3, but RVL trains are extended to New York only during mid-day hours on weekdays. NJT rail planner Thomas W. Morgan told the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC) that the experiment would be “an open-ended pilot” and did not mention any plans for extending the one-seat ride service to other times. Raritan Valley Rail Coalition Chair Peter S. Palmer called for expansion of the one-seat-ride service to weekday evenings, after peak-commuting hours are over, with later expansion to weekends and then peak-commuting hours.

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Raritan One-Seat Rides Begin March 3

After years of petitioning NJ Transit, riders on the Raritan Valley Line will finally get a one-seat ride into Manhattan, starting March 3.  Sort of.  According to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (Feb. 19), the new service will be limited, featuring only 5 round trips each weekday, and only in midday hours, not in the peak hours that commuters have demanded.  Raritan Valley Rail Coalition Chairman Peter Palmer says it’s the first step in a 4-step process that eventually may lead to more comprehensive service.  Today, Raritan passengers headed for midtown Manhattan have to transfer at Newark Penn Station, either taking the relatively slow PATH service or hoping for a seat on already-packed NJT trains from other lines.

Even though Raritan line riders constitute about 10% of NJT’s overall weekday train ridership, they haven’t gotten a single one-seat ride into New York’s Penn Station.  For years, the excuse was that the RVL is not electrified, and the diesels used there are not allowed into the Hudson River tunnels and Penn Station itself.  However, now NJT has “dual-powered” locomotives that can work as diesels out on the Raritan line but switch to electric mode to reach Penn Station.  Why not more than 5 round trips a day?  NJT has plenty of the new locomotives, which were planned for use in the now-cancelled ARC trans-Hudson tunnel—but capacity restrictions on the hundred-year-old existing tunnels makes it impossible to add any trains in the peak hours, so some other line would have to give up trains to allow Raritan passengers to get even a single seat into the Big Apple.  This, apparently, is a political can of worms that NJT is reluctant to open.

Raritan–Manhattan Direct Service Begins March 2

NJ Transit will begin offering limited direct service from stations on the Raritan Valley Line to New York Penn Station beginning March 2, the first direct service to Manhattan ever offered to riders on the line.  However, the service will not be provided during peak commuter hours, because of the unavailability of timeslots to add additional trains to New York in peak hours.

According to reporting by Mike Deak on Gannett’s myCentralJersey.com (Dec. 16), the “pilot program” will offer the service for weekday trains arriving in New York between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and returning between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Specifics were not announced, but since service on the line is roughly hourly, it seems likely that there would be about 4 trains each way.  After the initial service, NJT is considering evening service for outbound trains between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The new service is made technically possible by NJT’s acquisition of 36 “dual-mode” locomotives for $340 million; these locomotives can operate both with diesel power, which the Raritan line requires, and electric power, required to operate into Manhattan.  Unfortunately, 21 of the 36 units were damaged by flooding in Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and only 5 of the damaged units have so far returned to service; all are expected back by July, 2014.

The announcement by NJ Transit follows extensive lobbying by the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, which sees direct service to Manhattan as essential to the several transit-oriented developments in progress along the Raritan Line corridor.

The complete article was formerly found at http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20131216/NJNEWS/312160026

The Raritan Valley Rail Coalition’s website is at: http://www.raritanvalleyrail.com

Dual-Power Locomotives Run into Penn Station

New Jersey Transit’s ALP-45DP dual-power locomotives ran into Penn Station for the first time last weekend.  Because of maintenance on the wires that supply electric power to trains on the Morris & Essex (M&E) Line, the power was turned off between Maplewood and Morris Plains on Saturday and for some of the service day on Sunday.
Although Amtrak has expressed concern about allowing the units into Penn Station, the weekend service seemed to go smoothly, although with some delays.  The locomotives, made by Bombardier, cost approximately $7.9 million each; roughly 3 times the cost of a conventional diesel unit.  The use of these units to bring revenue trains into Penn Station could reopen the push by the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition and other advocates for a one-seat ride to New York City on nonelectrified lines such as the Raritan Valley Line or the southern part of the North Jersey Coast Line.

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.

NJT Relaxes Some Weekend Bicycle Restrictions, but It’s Little Help on Our Lines

New Jersey Transit announced on Monday, August 6th, that it would relax some of the weekend restrictions against the use of bicycles on trains, beginning on Saturday, August 11th.  The restrictions that went into effect in July prohibited bicycles on all inbound trains that would arrive at their terminals in Newark, Hoboken, or New York between 9:00 and 12:00 in the morning, and leaving those terminals between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.  The regulation does not apply to trains going in the opposite direction, which would carry New York-based cyclists to New Jersey.
NJT announced that the weekend restriction would no longer apply to trains that terminate in Hoboken, or Raritan Valley Line trains that terminate at Newark.  The restrictions on weekend bicycle use on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, and Morris & Essex (M&E) lines remain in full force and effect.
Cyclists on the M&E line must take the 7:05 train from Dover, or an earlier train, to reach their destination before the restricted period begins.  They must also leave Penn Station on the 4:11 train, or wait until 8:11; a gap of 4 hours.  Although trains on the Gladstone Branch may now carry bicycles, Gladstone trains terminate at Summit on weekends.  Cyclists cannot use M&E trains east of Summit during the restricted hours, so they are subject to the same restrictions as M&E riders.
The only improvement for riders on our rail lines is that cyclists getting on trains at Bay St. (Montclair), Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, or Watsessing Avenue can now use 2 trains to Hoboken and 1 train from Hoboken that they could not have used before.