Monday, October 21, 2013

Raritan Valley Coalition (RVC) meeting

                        We want to eliminate the need to switch platforms in Newark for service to and from Manhattan.

A dedicated group of RVC advocates gathered in Westfield on Monday to strategize on improving rail service on the Raritan Valley Line.  It runs from Newark Penn Station through Union, Cranford, Westfield, Plainfield, Somerville and beyond. Plainfield was represented by yours truly, Planning Director Bill Nierstadt, Darlene McWilliams and Jeff Dunn. 

Linda Stender was the guest speaker and she covered the legislative end of the RVC's work.  A new website has been created to inform residents along the line and encourage their involvement in the advocacy.  I fervently hope you will go to this website and partake of the opportunities to communicate with your elected officials.  But first the meeting highlights, which should convince you of the importance of this cause.

After the ritual lamenting of the demise of the ARC Tunnel project, the group turned to more achievable objectives. Top on the list is using dual powered locomotives for one seat rides to Manhattan.  We need many voices to get NJ Transit off the dime.  They purchased 36 dual powered locomotives.  It is taking a long time to get them in regular use.  12 of them were damaged in Superstorm Sandy but should be repaired within 6 months.  The rest are ready now.

The bottleneck at the Hudson River tunnel is for peak hour service.  So the RVC one seat ride will start on weekends and weekdays off peak.  In April, unless we can use our clout for an earlier start.  Here are the particulars on getting the coveted one seat peak hour service.
  • 20 NJ trains get through the tunnel during morning rush hour.  Most are from the Northeast Corridor Main Line.
  • The Coast Line also feeds 6 trains during morning rush hour.  Even though this line has only 30% more riders than Raritan Valley, we have no trains!
  • The completed development projects in Union, Cranford, Garwood and Fanwood add riders and clout to our coalition.  New projects in Cranford, Bound Brook and Somerville are in the works.
  • Currently Westfield's station has the most weekday riders with 2321.  Union and Cranford have 1230 and 1189 respectively.  Plainfield downtown is fourth with 1044 but we are the only town with two stations and combined, we jump to second with 1647 riders.  We have transit oriented development projects in the works as well.
RVC  clearly has increasing demand and currently has 10% of the total peak hour Manhattan bound riders from NJ.  10% of 20 peak hour trains.  That's 2 trains as our fair share.  This is not mission impossible.  Schedule adjustments can be made on the other lines that will minimize impact on riders.  For example, a significant number of northbound Main Line riders get off at the PATH station so don't need to compete with demand through Newark Penn Station and the Hudson Main Line Tunnel.

Advocacy efforts must increase.  I will have the website link in a few days and then there is no excuse.  A few clicks and your message to NJ legislators and NJ Transit is sent.  And my next post will have compelling data from studies on one seat ride impact on property values.  This is more than a time saver for NYC commuters.  We have to get mobilized.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Economic Development Report - the importance of food

Plainfield has many downtown restaurants representing Central and South American nationalities.  I just saw some new ones.  Time for a visit, anyone care to join me?  We also have a Middle Eastern market (good falafel) on Park Ave/Somerset St (sitting over the Green Brook) and classic American comfort food (Red Tower, Texas Weiner II, Plainfield Donut Shop, Bills).  Good food and very affordable.  I am only mentioning a few. 

My vision for downtown adds some variety to the existing compliment of eateries.  Plainfielders who have been in town for 30 years or more may remember What's Your Beef and Lily Greenleaves.  These places catered to $15 - $20 a plate diners - converting to today's prices.  The variety I seek is for these mid range priced menus.  Throw in some craft beer and music on weekends and I am very happy.  Remember the Clubhouse, with three floors of club scene for 20 somethings, back in the early 1980s?  The importance of having these establishments is the connection to unsubsidized downtown apartments for people with money to spend in our downtown.  I don't know which comes first, the nightlife or the apartments, but they go together. 

The new urban living - people living downtown, walking around, shopping, dining, listening to music.  It works with the right mix or should I say critical mass of apartment dwellers, convenient transportation and retail.  And a mix of people of various income levels.  Plainfield can be one of these places. 

We now have two developers who are using the f word (food, that is):  Plainfields designated downtown redeveloper, Landmark and  the new kid in town, Arkad (  While we are waiting to see what they will do to back up their words, you can do your part by dining in one of our downtown restaurants.  Here are two relatively new ones on Park Ave: