Princeton University has already cut off the railroad track for the Dinky train line (see above), and allowed the old Dinky Station to fall apart in a farcical manner, but the town of Princeton is looking to the future. A task force with the responsibility to improve transit along the Alexander Street Corridor is making a presentation to the public this coming Saturday, November 9, with the objective of getting feedback on the way ahead.
The so-called Alexander Street/University Place Task Force was set up as part of a compromise to let Princeton U. move ahead with replacing the historic Dinky Station with a campus extension called the ‘Arts and Transit Project‘. Ironically, the ‘Arts and Transit Project’ involved moving the station for the Princeton Branch railroad further out of the town, to a site further away from where most people in town live. This is, at risk of understatement, not helpful. Princeton is already far too dependent on cars for transportation. If we are to encourage people to leave their cars at home, or better yet, to own fewer cars, then it’s essential to make walking, cycling and transit an easy and realistic way to get to where they need to go.
That’s where the ASUP Task Force comes in. With members from the University and the Town, this committee aims to establish consensus on the best options for improving transit and circulation in Princeton. They have an ambitious remit, and have retained not one but two teams of consultants to assist them. Last we heard, the Task Force was narrowing down the list of options for transit on Alexander Street. A heavy rail extension of the Dinky Line and Personal Rapid Transit had been eliminated from further discussion, but buses, streetcars and light rail were still under consideration.
This Saturday, November 9, the Task Force will host a meeting to get public input on their current plans. The meeting will take place at the Carl Fields Center at 58 Prospect Avenue, Princeton, from 9 a.m. – 12.30 p.m:
It’s hard to over-state how important the findings of this Task Force will be. In addition to setting up the likely parameters for future transit in and out of Princeton on the key Alexander Street corridor, they will present a traffic model for Princeton. The traffic model won’t get as much attention, but will be of extreme importance for determining how development and traffic management decisions will be made in Princeton for the next decade. Anyone with any interest in transit or alternative transportation should be planning on attending this meeting and presenting.
We can be confident that a significant part of the audience will be enthusiasts for the existing Dinky train service. The construction around the Dinky station is still a matter of ongoing legal action, and theoretically at least, the University could be forced to restore the line to University Place if court decision don’t go their way. However the ASUP Task Force’s mandate is based on the assumption that the Arts and Transit Project is going to happen. Attending the meeting doesn’t mean that you support the Arts and Transit Project- but it does give you a chance to influence what will happen if the University wins in court.
It’s not clear what realistic options for transit the Task Force is likely to present. Increased bus service, while the least inspiring of all possible outcomes, is very likely to be presented as the only affordable alternative. Streetcars and light rail would be met with more enthusiasm, but at a hefty price tag. More far-fetched options, such as a dual-mode vehicle solution are probably unlikely to be recommended. It’s also not clear whether the Task Force has taken into account the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, or how their remit overlaps with ongoing plans to make road improvements to Route 1 at the intersection with Alexander Street. Hopefully, we’ll find out more on Saturday! Hope to see you there!
What do you think is the best outcome for improved transit along Alexander Street? Do you have confidence in the ASUP Task Force to provide an impartial report? Have your say in the comments below!