Princeton Transit Task Force To Host Public Consultation This Saturday

Princeton's Dinky Line has been severed half-way along Alexander Street. Can another transit mode replace cars for people trying to reach downtown? (click to expand.)

Princeton’s Dinky Line, pictured here looking toward town, has been severed half-way along Alexander Street. The old Dinky station can be seen in the distance. Can another transit mode replace cars for people trying to reach downtown? (click to expand.)

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:

Flyer with full information about ASUP Task Force consultation. (Click to expand.)

Flyer with full information about ASUP Task Force consultation. (Click to expand.)

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!

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17 Responses to Princeton Transit Task Force To Host Public Consultation This Saturday

  1. Lieve Cash says:

    First cutting off the Dinky. Then talk. Is that how it works? The picture above just says it all.
    Light rail/trams would be great – going across Princeton. But why would they listen to anything now? Extremely disappointed in the whole “democratic” Princeton process.

  2. Eve Coulson says:

    So important to keep showing up for the Dinky. It’s part of what makes Primceton unusual—it’s readiness, as a suburban town, to adapt to changing times as energy costs increase. I have always felt fortunate that I live in a town where I can walk from my home to a transit link which takes me many places locally but also anywhere on earth, no car required.
    Ten years ago in New York the High Line was nearly demolished, but a small group of citizens saw the value of saving it and it now it’s hard to imagine that neighborhood, and the city, without this precious resource. The Dinky serves all of Princeton, not just commuters, by decreasing the number of car traffic in and around this part of town, by enabling people to choose to live and work here without even owning a car, and to have a dependable transportation link to the Junction no matter the weather or traffic conditions (something neither a private car, bike, nor bus service can assure).
    Is this Princetion’s High Line moment?

  3. kblakecash says:

    “It’s hard to over-state how important the findings of this Task Force will be.”

    You just did. With the Dinky, they proved they had no interest in what the people of the town want, or what is best for transit. The findings are meaningless unless they reflect the University’s desires.

  4. Josh in Princeton says:

    Wouldn’t it be novel to focus on ways of working WITH the existing plans to ensure the vitality of the relocated Dinky for generations to come, rather than resisting planning decisions that have by now been made, whether we like them or not? There is no question of what “the town” wants: this town does not have a single opinion, and there are many sides to all issues–which have been amply discussed over the past 5 years or more, have they not? Let’s discuss, yes, but let’s begin with a certain set of givens. Or you can fight change forever, and try to fix Princeton in aspic, but good luck with that.

  5. GJ Mott says:

    There is a Planning Board meeting this evening (7:30 pm at the Municipal Building) that proposes to amend the Master Plan to eliminate strong support for continued rail service to the Junction. People who care about Princeton’s walkability should attend this meeting and insist on continued Master Plan support for rail to the Junction. We do not need a planning document that endorses the BRT system that the community overwhelmingly opposed a few years ago.
    The meeting on Saturday is also likely to promote a BRT option because–with a Dinky moved away from town–the BRT will be seen as the only cost-effective choice for a circuitous route up Alexander and around University Place.
    Supporters of efforts to preserve the Dinky service from University Place do not oppose change. They just oppose the wrong kind of change and change that has been shoved down the community’s throat by an institution that confuses its own interests with the public interest. Until the legal cases are decided the community should remain firm in its support of the Dinky service to University Place and firm in its support of rail to the Junction.
    Now that the ground has been broken and the work is underway, all can see that the so-called “Arts and Transit” project is really an “Arts and Parking” project. The University can build its arts buildings while keeping rail service at University Place. If it proceeds according to its plan, we can all look forward to a different Princeton that has given up pedestrian access to an in-town train station in order to get a park-and-ride station that has a WaWa.
    Walkable Princeton, if it is serious, should be outspoken in its opposition to the project.

  6. Josh in Princeton says:

    Has anyone forgotten that without the University, Princeton in the modern age would probably either be a lot more like, oh, Rahway, or maybe, in another model, Hopewell? Mightn’t we agree to try to find common ground and stop demonizing town OR gown?

    • Lieve Cash says:

      Princeton University decision-makers only have themselves to blame for the split with the town. Their discussions with the Pro-Dinky groups have been mostly for show – making it look as if they were listening when in fact they had already made up their minds what was going to happen. They never looked for any common ground, whereas the Dinky supporters came up with some very creative ideas to keep the Dinky + build the A&T project. I can’t imagine why they want to go through with another charade.

      • Walkable Princeton says:

        Just to be 100% clear, the ASUP Task Force includes two members from the University and four members from the town. The town members include Council members Patrick Simon and Lance Liverman. The Town therefore has an inbuilt majority on the committee. Lee Solow, the Town planning director, also advises the committee. It is not a University-only committee.

  7. Josh in Princeton says:

    I remain pro Dinky, pro mass transit, but opposed to BRT, unless you’d like to make Princeton even more like the rest of New Jersey. My emphasis–as I will hope to see discussion of at these upcoming fora–would remain achieving the most viable but relocated Dinky service possible.

  8. AliBaba says:

    The Dinky is cute, but the station is in a terrible position. I live fairly centrally in Princeton but the station is over 2 miles away from where I live. I just never use the Dinky. If I’m going to Amtrak (and why else would you ride the Dinky?), I just drive to Princeton Junction. What I would like to see is a transit solution that connects much more of the town to Princeton Junction. I want to be able to access transit to the Junction within a 10 minute walk of my house. If I have to get a bus and then hope for a good connection to the Dinky train, then sorry, I’m getting in my car. I’m sure most people are the same.

  9. GJ Mott says:

    @Walkable Princeton. I believe that at least one public member the ASUP Task Force (Wilkes) was an avid proponents of the BRT a few years ago. Marvin Reed, who may be also onASUP,
    was also pressing the BRT. @AliBaba: Many people living one or more miles from University Place walked to the station. No doubt, bus service can provide closer mass transit options for people living farther out. However, people walked to the Dinky because it would get them to the Junction in four minutes. Buses have to navigate traffic. @Josh. “Most viable” Dinky is one that operates from the University Place station with convenient pedestrian access. The relocated Dinky encourages automobile access, and I continue to be astonished that Princeton University has been able to sell this as environmentally sound.

  10. Aaron says:

    Walkable Princeton, is that an oxymoron? the Dinky gets moved to accommodate a driveway to a parking garage and Walkable Princeton is nowhere to be found. the planning board is taking the Dinky out of its circulation plan and Walkable Princeton is nowhere to be found. Saturday morning BRT will be resurrected and Walkable Princeton is nowhere to be found. yup, it’s an oxymoron.

    • Aaron it’s 8.06 pm here in the Princeton Planning Board. Marvin Reed is introducing the Circulation Plan Element. We are glad to be here, all set to give our comments on the Masterplan revision. The Masterplan revision gives explicit and strong support to the Dinky rail line. I have read it carefully and I could quote the exact section, but I’ll let the Planning Board speak on behalf of their own Masterplan revision. We have our own, separate comments and I’m looking forward to walking up to the podium to present those comments to the board. Just as soon as Mr Solow is done speaking.

      We’ll be there on Saturday too!

  11. Pingback: Princeton Transit Study Suggests Streetcar Will Be Best Option For Dinky Upgrade | walkableprinceton

  12. Pingback: Princeton Task Force: “Expect Alexander Street Traffic To Double” | walkableprinceton

  13. Pingback: Can We Make More Space For People On Princeton’s Witherspoon Street? | walkableprinceton

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