Collaboration Key for NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line

rvlgrab.jpgRenewLV wants to see the Raritan Valley Line expanded to PA.

This week we turn our attention to news of a multi-state effort to expand NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line. Livable Streets member group RenewLV — a campaign for smart growth in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley — attended an exciting meeting of the broader Raritan Valley Rail Coalition. RenewLV reports;

RenewLV supports the study of regional rail for the Lehigh Valley, particularly focusing on the possible extension of the Raritan Valley line from High Bridge to Phillipsburg, N.J., and the impact of such a project for this region. Since a regional rail service in the Valley will presumably involve partnerships with adjacent states — namely, New Jersey, and even New York — identifying allies across state boundaries is incredibly important for the regional rail effort. Today’s meeting was proof of a thriving sentiment for multi-organizational, multi-state collaboration. HART Commuter Information Services, a transportation management association that promotes ridesharing, and the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility were just some of the organizations that called for a need to work together on determining better transportation solutions for the NY-NJ-PA region.

Elsewhere: Maura McCormick continues her battle for non-automobile accessible grocery stores in Dayton, OH; Echo Park and Silverlake Livable Streets wants help distributing a poster for its next meeting; and things are looking up in Connecticut with the passage of an act improving bike-ped funding statewide and news of an intersection repair mural in New Haven.

  • Before the Raritan Valley Line extends itself to PA, it should fill in the gaps in its service to NJ residents. My hometown, Middlesex, falls between two RVL stations — Dunellen and Somerville — and the RVL runs through it. But there’s no station. The walk to stations in adjoining towns is at least 90 minutes if you’re a speed walker. Residents going to NYC are stuck with local bus service that can take more than two hours depending on route and time. While adding more stations would undoubtedly slow down the ride for users of existing stations, that issue could be addressed with alternating skip-stop service. NJT should get its act together and do a better job of serving NJ residents before it turns its attention to PA.

  • Avi

    Mark,

    A quick look at google shows the stations on either side of Middlesex are Dunellen and Bound Brook. They are also 4.5 miles apart. If you were to add a stop in the middle it would be ~2 miles between stops. Regional rails for commuters are not supposed to stop every 2 miles. They are designed to quickly move commuters long distances into an urban center. If you think Middlesex needs access to the RVL, then the best approach would be a light rail or bus running on route 28 or Harris Ave. Alternatively you could drive or bike to either station. Adding a station in Middlesex would harm more commuters with a longer trip then it would serve with the added stop.

    Extending service out to areas that have no rail access is exactly what commuter rail should be doing.

  • Improvements on this line should first include platform-level boarding and overhead catenary wire (electric power).

    Currently, trips on this line are vastly slower than other NJT lines because: 1) Diesel service cannot travel past Newark (and into New York City); riders incur delays at Newark as they change trains via a lengthy set of crowded stairwells, and 2) Low-level boarding is much slower than platform-level boarding, causing delays at each station along the line.

    Currently, only a very small percentage of trains run past the Raritan station, likely due to the fact that Raritan is about a 1.5 hour train ride from NYC (vs a 1 hour drive / not at rush hour).

    Speeding up the existing segment with electric power and station platforms would make trips to High Bridge (and beyond) less cumbersome and more apt for frequent use.

  • Avi, you overlooked my suggestion for skip-stop service. And talking about driving or biking to stations smacks of “let them eat cake.”

  • Shemp

    I think you’re all insane. How is facilitating an extreme commute from PA to NYC smart growth? Are they building center-oriented communities around Allentown? You’re asking for more car dependent bedroom community subdivisions up the road from big park and rides. Appalling. Scenic Hudson successfully fought the extension of Metro-North into Columbia County for these reasons. This is sprawl rail.

  • talking about driving or biking to stations smacks of “let them eat cake.”

    Well, you can’t just demand a station anywhere. There probably isn’t a station there because there isn’t demand for one. (I don’t know the area at all; just guessing.)

    Scenic Hudson successfully fought the extension of Metro-North into Columbia County for these reasons.

    Like many NIMBYs, they fight for *no* development, not development that is more transit-oriented. And that is their right. But the area between Allentown is already highly developed, and there are lots of commuters from the area already driving to NJ transit stations. I don’t know if it’s enough to justify this line–that’s what they’re studying–but to dismiss it out of hand is not realistic.

  • JoeA

    Large scale transportation decisions made by government are often dominated by political concerns that have a vague relationship to actual benefits and costs. Unlike government, advocates are free to propose projects that make sense. Unfortunately, many green transportation types squander that intellectual freedom on delusional obsession with spending giant gobs of money on heavy rail, regional rail and High Speed Rail. Not only are these expenditures often questionable when considered in isolation, they take place at a time when already crowded urban transportation systems are near financial collapse and hard pressed to maintain their existing capital plants. We shouldn’t be expanding regional rail when local transit is collapsing. The first step towards reducing car dependence in Allentown and the Lehigh Valley, isn’t regional rail. It’s building on existing density by improving local bus service, bicycling and walking. If that’s not enough of a challenge, local advocates can reform the zoning code to increase density and eliminate sprawl inducing parking requirements.

  • Louis

    the Raritan Valley line extended all the way to Phillipsburg in the dark ages of 1983. like it or not people in the ny area make extreme commutes with or with out transit. the roads are packed and the line would make alot of sense for reverse commuters too. btw the line could be 4 tracks btwn union and raritan and 3 betwn raritan and phillipsburg making express service easy. and also there used to be a station in Middlesex and could be again. many njt lines have station distances less than a mile and with the good development have high ridership. the trick is express service

  • Adam

    I’d like to see a connection from the Raritan Valley Line to the West Trenton Line someday. I think that line would probably be better for Acela service than the NEC because there’s more space available to straighten the tracks out and have them run at their top speed. The main issue is electrification of a short section between Cranford and Newark because freight companies use that section to haul quadruple stacks there. And of course there are the grade crossings, but it would be worth it to have the Acelas get their own section of track between NY and Philly. If they had this, and it was straight enough, they could actually run at 190 MPH or something on the section where they have their own ROW.

  • harwitch

    I note this seems to be interpreted mostly as serving people going from Philippsburg to NYC. As someone who grew up in and lives in the Raritan Valley, not far from the station, I would personally gleefully use this mostly for the opposite reason. There are a variety of dining and retail locations I frequent in P-burg, and I really hate driving…

    Improved service on this line would have simplified my once regular commute to New Brunswick ages ago as well. I’d have put up with having to transfer at Newark and go down the NE-Corridor line if I hadn’t also had to put up with only…six? trains a day….

  • I would just like more service out past the town of Raritan on the existing line!!

    I used to commute 2 to 3 times a week using the Raritan Valley Line from Bound Brook to Annandale (bike 10 mile to Bound Brook then 4 miles from Annnandale). There was only one train west bound in the morning and one east bound in the evening. I could barely work a 7 hour day since the returning train in the afternoon left Annandale at 4:18.

    They have added two more train since then in each direction but AGAIN the earliest train arrives in Annandale at 8:24am and the latest going east leaves at 4:42! How the hell can you work an 8 hour day and take this train!!!! I understand its a reverse commute but still!

    Also service does not go beyond Raritan on weekends. I have written several reports that talk about the missed opportunities to attract recreational cyclists from New York City to use this rail line to access Somerset and Hunterdon Counties’ world class cycling destinations (the riding is REALLY nice out their).

    And coming later this month is the Quick Check Festival of Ballooning which is the biggest east of the Mississippi. It attracts tens of thousands of people. The Raritan Valley line has two stations within 2 miles of the the event. Will they be running special service for this even. As far as I can tell the answer is NO.

  • Nathanael

    Everyone’s desires would be much easier if the line was electrified — faster trains, better acceleration (allowing more stops), and because the trains would be faster they’d be able to run more service with the same number of trains. Also be cheaper to operate.

    The Cranford-Newark section has numerous possible solutions.

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