Over two months have passed since New Jersey Transit–acting at the bidding of Princeton University–stopped train service to the historic Princeton Station on University Place and instituted service at a “temporary” station 1200 feet to the south. The temporary station is a Soviet-style wooden structure, with an S-shaped ramp, and a truncated platform. It sits in a desolate spot, but to date the surrounding parking lot provides free parking with auto access. Even though the auto commute is five or more minutes longer than the previous one to University Place, the temporary station is “auto-friendly” if only because pedestrian access is so difficult. The only convenient access for pedestrians is from the northeast along a campus walk that adds about seven minutes to the walk time from the historic station on University Place. Pedestrian access from due north and west is daunting. Construction barriers prevent a “straight shoot walk” from the historic station to the temporary one” over land that is supposed to be protected by a public transportation easement. Pedestrians are forced to walk to Alexander and then south and, in the process, to navigate construction barriers that seem to change on a daily basis.
New Jersey Transit maintains that it was legally obligated under the terms of the 1984 sale contract to relocate the terminus. In the debate over the project, the University claimed that it needed to move the terminus to accommodate an access Road to its Lot 7 garage and that NJ Transit would not agree to provide a grade crossing over the tracks. Our research indicates that the University never made a formal request for a grade crossing and that NJ Transit’s alleged objections were never tested. See NJ Transit Grade Crossing Emails. Now that the trees along the right of way have been removed, we now have a clear picture of the vista that will be new Princeton “gateway” to the east if and when the temporary station is built.
The Lot 7 garage wasn’t built until the year 2000, and so far as we can tell, the garage access is not the real reason for the University’s desire to move the terminus. It appears that the University is moving the station to free up development rights on the Dinky right of way and the property associated with the station.