Local Candidates Speak on the Dinky

The primary election is Tuesday, June 7th.  Polls are open 6am – 8pm.

Candidates were asked the following question. Responses follow.

What is your opinion of the university’s proposal to move the Dinky terminus to a point near its lot 7 garage?   Do you believe this represents good public policy? If not, what strategies would you use to persuade the University to alter its Arts District Plans to incorporate the Dinky terminus in its current location?


Jill Jachera (R): No response

David Goldfarb (D):

Moving the Dinky would not be an “enhancement of the experience of riding the Dinky.”  It would be a significant detriment to our system of public transportation.

Our goal should be to provide quick, convenient, and economical public transportation between downtown Princeton and the Northeast Corridor.  The community should work with the University and the State of New Jersey to develop a system that will accomplish this goal while addressing the community’s concerns about convenience, the University’s concerns about safety, and the State’s concerns about cost.

Forcing a premature decision on the Arts & Transit proposal would likely have long-standing repercussions, not only for the Dinky but also for the relationship between the University and the larger Princeton community.  The University has often said that its planning spans future decades.  Appropriate adjustments to the transit portion of the Arts & Transit proposal would pay dividends for future generations of Princetonians on and off the campus.

Yina Moore (D):

My family’s business was in the transportation industry for almost a century. While I hold the Dinky dear, it is more than a treasured relic of the past.   It remains as a major rail link from Princeton to places of employment along the Northeast Corridor.   This transportation asset provides the convenient access commuters require, and according to location theory it is a factor that impacts the values of our commercial and residential real estate.   The convenience of the Dinky via a walkable distance encourages ridership and reduces harmful emissions by reducing vehicle trips to it and the Junction.  The treasured quality of life we all enjoy and the health of our community are at risk in the proposed relocation of the Dinky.

A municipality is responsible for decisions that serve the best interests of the entire community.   Before the Borough considers making any land use changes, it should always ensure that sustainability (environmental, economic, and social) goals are served and that infrastructure is secured to continue to meet current and future needs of the community.  Securing the short and long-term future of rail service is not optional, it is critical.  The existing right-of-way (ROW) is both efficient and effective for the current heavy rail application and vehicles of the future, such as light rail.  Dedicated ROW and land uses should also be mapped to allow for and serve a continuous alignment straight up University Place to Nassau St.

National transportation experts have cited the rarity of a community having in place a heavy rail shuttle, such as the Dinky, that travels directly to the NEC, a major regional service.  Local experts have presented alternatives that could integrate the current vehicle and vehicles of the future with land development in creative ways.   I bring experience in creating solutions for jointly developed transportation improvement projects that include the participation of private and public parties.  I believe that this is the optimum approach for preserving the existing ROW, integrating land uses, accommodating the demands and impacts of development, and for implementing an extended alignment.  I am looking for a solution that represents a win for the region, a win for the community, and a win for the University.  It would be poor public policy on the part of the transportation authority, the municipality and the University to do anything less.


Heather Howard (D):

The Dinky connection to the Northeast Corridor is an extremely valuable asset to the economic well-being of our town, and it serves our community well where it currently sits.  Fortunately there are still several options on the table and I hope we can find a solution that keeps the Dinky in its present location.  Through constructive dialogue, we can identify a mutually beneficial solution that meets the needs of our community and reflects the point of view with which professional planners agree – that the station should remain as close to the center of our Central Business District as possible.

Barbara Trelstad (D):

First, let me say that Princeton University is an essential part of Princeton, New Jersey. It is one of the leading universities in the country, if not the world and there isn’t a day that goes by that the University doesn’t benefit the town, and vice versa

That having been said, I find it difficult to understand why the University would propose moving a rail link that has been an integral part of the community for almost 150 years further from the town center and the people it serves.

In an era of peak oil prices, smart growth lies in improving mass transportation systems so that our population can live in more closely knit communities with good, reliable public transportation systems that get folks to their jobs and out of their automobiles.  The current plan to move the Dinky seems contrary to that premise.

As a major research University I also believe that Princeton should be leading the way in promoting more and better mass transit for its faculty, staff and students and for residents who count on this rail link to commute to their jobs.  The plan that would move the Dinky further from town may serve the University population better, but it would not serve the public well. It appears to be bad public policy.

I believe it is my job to stand for good public policy for my constituents.  So how would I try to persuade the University to alter its Arts District Plans to incorporate the Dinky terminus in its current location? I would continue to cite common sense, I would ask that everyone take a deep breath and a step backward and understand that a successful Arts and Transit neighborhood, that if built well, will still be here in 100 years.  Another month or two to get the planning right will not matter in the long term.

We all need to look at the Arts and Transit neighborhood in the context of other changes being planned, for example, the Hibben/Magie housing along Alexander Street.  We need to assess their collective impact together, not as individual and isolated projects but as a longer term vision.  I think we should take the time to ask the question, is this the right way to proceed or is there a better plan?  I believe there is a better plan that will more tightly integrate the town and University.

Peter Marks (R):

Princeton should not permit the University to truncate the Dinky.  Nor should Princeton permit the University to create a bottleneck on Alexander Road.

Rather than degrading our rail link, we should seek to improve it – with the object of making the Dinky the most convenient and least expensive means of getting from downtown Princeton to the Princeton Junction train station.  The essential elements of a any upgrade program would be: (i) the renovation and reopening of both existing stations, preferably with the addition of food service and a decent news stand; (ii) the construction of ample structured parking on the site of the present surface parking lot (enabling passengers to get from their cars to the Dinky without getting wet); and (iii) the introduction of continuous service to and from Princeton Junction.

Our existing rail link is distinctive, historic, and irreplaceable.  It is also likely to have considerable future value – both in reducing vehicular traffic and in defining future development patterns.

Princeton Borough, acting alone if necessary, should move aggressively to safeguard the Dinky by acquiring the entire ca. 2.7 acre tract that Princeton University purchased from NJ Transit in 1984 and thereafter rezoning the site for transit and directly related uses.  The purchase price should be set at a level that would give the University an attractive compounded return on its investment, but the town should make clear that the offer is not one that the University is free to reject.

I would also urge the town to purchase NJ Transit’s remaining right-of-way and thereafter to engage a competent private operator to manage the line in a manner that is efficient, financially sustainable, and focused laser-like on the convenience of its riders.

The station leases, operating lease, and parking garage revenues could be meaningful sources of income for the town – the more so were the Dinky line to be run in a manner that made it more convenient than, and cost competitive with, the alternative of driving to Princeton Junction.

Dudley Sipprelle (R):

There is a wide range of opinion in our community regarding the University’s proposed move of the “Dinky” station held by fair-minded and well-intentioned individuals.  All are able to muster  arguments for their position.  The University has, however, the legal right to move the Dinky away from its current location. The Princeton Borough municipal government also has the obligation to ensure that any move of the Dinky to another location and plans for development of the vacated and surrounding area are in the best interests of Borough residents and taxpayers.

What we should be seeing is a thoughtful and transparent process of discussion which ensures that the University’s vision is consistent with the Borough’s long-range development plans and needs.  A principal objective must be to ensure that the proposed arts district does not further complicate life for local residents, particularly through increased vehicular traffic and gridlock.  Instead, what has developed is contentious stalemate.  This is a consequence of vacillating and ineffective leadership on the part of our local elected officials which has resulted in the alienation of the University to the point that it does not believe it has a serious negotiating partner.

The Dinky is an important element of transportation for the community and should be preserved and enhanced until something demonstrably better comes along.  I am not persuaded, however, that moving the Dinky 150 yards south is going to “kill” the Dinky by causing riders to abandon it.  Any attempt to exercise eminent domain to involve the Borough in the operation of a railroad would result in financial disaster for our taxpayers.

Who are the actual users of the dinky?  How do they arrive at the station? From where do they come? Has a significant cross-section of riders been polled?  Will the new arts district demonstrably result in increased revenue for the Borough resulting in lower property taxes?  A decision should be informed by these specific and like questions, rather than speculation, conjecture, and the invocation of planners and studies from other times and places.  We need hard facts and a new negotiating team.

It is my opinion that an issue so consequential to the community should be put to the voters.  That is why I want to reform the system of local government which would permit the initiative and referendum when our local elected officials can’t get the job done.


Bernie Miller (D): No response

Mark Scheibner (R): No response

Sue Nemeth (D):

The train is in jeopardy in its current location because too few people — walking or riding — actually use it. The University has declared its intention to move the train a short distance to accommodate improvements. Given this set of circumstances, I support making the Dinky more accessible to more riders however they choose to get to the train. The current proposal includes roadway improvements to ease traffic congestion, safer pedestrian walkways and drop-off and pick-up areas, more accessible parking, taxis, expanded bus routes timed to the train, sheltered bike parking with helmet lockers, restrooms and a convenience store.  All paid for with private funding.  I applaud the efforts of our joint MOU negotiating committee for making the most of the University’s proposed changes; they have acted responsibly and in the best interests of Princeton’s taxpayers.

Geoff Aton (R):

I appreciate the willingness of the save the dinky group to learn more about the ideas I will introduce to address this and the many pressing issues facing the Princetons. I look forward to discussing them with you, but I need to wait until after I secure my party’s nomination in the Primary election. At this time, with the myriad of challenges that will dictate the future prosperity, affordability, and governance of our community, I continue speaking with my neighbors, community/ business leaders, and many new friends to learn from their stories and add their experiences to mine. I am convinced that I can best represent our diverse views, working with the Mayor and Committee to unify Princeton behind a mission that strengthens our local economy, as well as the nonprofits, businesses and most importantly the families that will be impacted by the judgments they will entrust me to make.






Comments are closed.