Senate to vote on pushing NJ Transit for Raritan Valley Line upgrade
While NJ Transit finally restored service on the Atlantic City Line and Princeton Dinky last month, it hasn’t revived its off-peak direct trains into New York on the Raritan Valley Line.
A bill up for a Senate vote on Monday pushes one step further, demanding answers for when full-time direct service may happen on the Raritan Valley Line, which serves 23,000 daily commuters and extends from Hunterdon County to Newark Penn Station.
Raritan Valley Rail Coalition Chairman Bruce Bergen says his group wants an equitable allocation of direct peak-hour trains, two each in the morning and evening rush hours, so commuters don’t have to switch trains to get into Manhattan.
“The importance of a one-seat ride for the Raritan Valley Line cannot be overstated,” Bergen said.
“Our constituents are entitled to the speed, convenience and comfort of direct rail service to New York City, be it for work or pleasure, just like riders on every other New Jersey Transit line,” he said.
Lisa Mandelblatt says that when she bought her house in Westfield 26 years ago, they were told a single-seat train into Manhattan was coming “any minute now.”
Some off-peak direct trains were added – in midday in 2014, at night in 2015. But then they were suspended last September to allow for ‘positive train control’ crash-avoidance technology to be installed system-wide and hasn’t returned, let alone be expanded to weekends or rush hours.
“We’ve been the forgotten line. It’s time for us to have our fair share,” Mandelblatt said. “I know it’s complicated, but complicated does not mean impossible.”
The bill, S3574, would give NJ Transit six months to report to the Legislature on why direct service was suspended and the actions, cost and time required to provide full-time direct rail service into New York City.
State Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, the Senate transportation committee chairman, said such a change would create economic benefits for both suburban commuter towns and down-on-its-luck Plainfield.
“By allowing those two rail stations – there’s two in Plainfield, simply because of its history – that if they could go straight into the city, boom, you need no other economic incentive,” Diegnan said.
The Raritan Valley Line is projected by NJ Transit to carry around 6 million passengers this fiscal year. That’s down for the third straight year, a 9% decline from the 2016 peak.