NJTransit Rebuffs Borough Council Request for Public Hearing

Rail Banking

Why is Governor Christie giving away a public right-of-way to a private institution?

In April, the Princeton Borough Mayor and Council  wrote to  Governor Christie and the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors seeking a formal public hearing on plans to relocate the Dinky.  The letter stressed the value of the historic Dinky to to the community, the value of its current accessible location, and the value of the straight shot right-of-way the public transportation easement provides for potential extension of service to Nassau Street.  The text of the letter follows:

To Governor Chris Christie and the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors:

As Mayor and Council of the Borough of Princeton, we value our walkable mass transit link to the Northeast Corridor, and we are committed to take whatever steps we can to maintain it. Accordingly, we respectfully request a public hearing on New Jersey Transit’s proposal to truncate rail service on the Princeton branch (the “Dinky”) and to prematurely abandon the public transportation easement for the station, rail line and parking lot that New Jersey Transit retained when it sold the underlying property to Princeton University in 1984.

This decision will have an adverse effect on pedestrian access to the Dinky. It should be made openly, in public, and on the basis of objective analyses. The easement and the transit right of way it secures constitute valuable public assets. They should not be given away to a private entity without the soundest public policy justification and any such transfer should be accompanied by adequate compensation.

As you know, the Princeton Branch rail line has been described by New Jersey Transit officials as one of its better performing lines. Retaining the service in its present location, connected to the center of town by sidewalk and adjacent to a public street, is in the public interest. The proposed move would marginalize the station and impose new impediments to both walkers and drivers – an additional street crossing and a steep slope for walkers and three additional traffic intersections for drivers. Creative solutions are available that would preserve the Dinky service in its current location while accommodating the University’s plans for its arts campus. As a fiduciary for the traveling public, we urge you to schedule a full public hearing so that such solutions can be explored in a context that gives proper weight to the public interest in sustainable and walkable mass transit.

Mayor and Council

Paul Wyckoff, New Jersey Transit’s Chief for Government and External Affairs,  responded    in a June 11, 2012 letter to Mayor Moore.  He reiterated NJ Transit’s position that it has “a contractual obligation to relocate the station some 460 feet to accommodate the University’s Arts/District.”  He claimed that NJ Transit is not required to hold a stand-alone public hearing on station relocation “because service is not being eliminated.”  “The station location,” said Wyckoff, “is merely being slightly adjusted.”  Wyckoff then noted that the public had had a chance to voice its views at  the Historic Sites Council meetings on its NJTransit’s track removal application.  He also stated that station relocation was discussed at the  Princeton Regional Planning Board meetings on the University’s arts campus  zoning application.  The full text of the letter can be found at this link.

In response to a request from Borough Council in  2011, New Jersey Transit stated in a letter to then-Mayor Mildred Trotman that it would “perform an analysis of station relocation after  the University’s plans move beyond the conceptual stage. . .”  To date, that analysis has not been forthcoming.


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