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.

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