Railgram

The Railgram is the Coalition's official newsletter, published every two months and packed with in-depth coverage of the issues. For past issues and printer-friendly versions, click here.

New Jersey Transit is offering a special ticket, good on NJT bus, rail, light rail and Access-Link paratransit. It is called the Super-Pass and offers unlimited transportation for eight days from Monday, Jan. 27 through Monday, Feb. 3. It costs $50 and can only be purchased on NJT’s website, www.njtransit.com, through Jan. 14. This one-time pass is less expensive than almost all weekly fares; far less expensive for a long distance. The regular weekly fare between Dover and New York is $124. Currently, only monthly rail commuters are entitled to use a bus for an equivalent distance.

We commend NJT on offering an all-inclusive ticket, good for use on all of their transportation modes. Now that we know that it is possible to do so, we call on NJT to allow riders to use any mode of transit they offer, on a regular basis. All riders, whether they are weekly or monthly commuters, or ride on single-trip tickets, should have access to every mode of transit on NJT for the fare they pay.

The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) and local Princeton residents have gone to court to stop New Jersey Transit from cutting off 460 feet of the Princeton Branch, known locally as the "Dinky" because it is less than three miles long. These cases are still pending, but NJT has relocated the Princeton station and started to remove the tracks and overhead wire, anyway. The nation’s shortest commuter rail line connects with the Northeast Corridor (NEC) main line at Princeton Junction and takes riders to Princeton. It originally went to downtown Princeton, but not anymore.

The NJT Board of Directors called a special meeting for the sole purpose of approving a land swap with Princeton University, which wanted the land for development that would include a parking deck. Despite opposition from some Princeton residents and NJ-ARP, the proposal was approved and the station was relocated on August 26. NJ-ARP Director Philip G. Craig complained that the new station is 1,200 feet of walking distance from the old one.

Read more: From The Railgram: NJT Shortens Princeton 'Dinky' Despite Ongoing Legal Challenges

Following the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Transit has put more emphasis on flood-proofing its storage yards. However, investigative reporting by WNYC and Karen Rouse of the Bergen County Record shows that the agency already had a plan in place to move equipment to higher ground in the event of such a storm, but did not follow this plan during Sandy.

Prepared four months before Sandy struck, the storm plan advised transferring commuter rail equipment to several upland sites. What NJT ended up doing as Sandy bore down was not advocated anywhere in its plan: the agency relocated locomotives and railcars to a low-lying yard near water, resulting in millions of dollars of damage.

By contrast, the Record reported, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) prepared, and followed, a more detailed storm-preparation plan, taking into account the effects of global warming. The MTA moved much of its equipment to higher ground in advance of Sandy, and lost only 11 railcars as a result.

NJT Repairs Line Quickly, But Substitute Bus Service Was Questionable

 

Less than ten months after Hurricane Sandy devastated NJ Transit’s rail operations, the railroad received a sharp reminder of the power of nature. On Thursday, August 22, intense local storms struck northern Somerset County and wiped out the roadbed on the line’s Gladstone Branch in multiple places, disrupting train service for days.

Local weather observers recorded four inches or more of rain in downpours over several midday hours, causing rapid flooding of the North Branch of the Raritan River and tributary streams. The hilly rail line runs in the upper Raritan watershed in its westernmost section, from Bernardsville to the Gladstone terminus. According to a staff report in the next day’s Courier News, the regional newspaper, there were four to six significant washouts, each 10-15 feet to 50-60 feet long. The damage was generally in the area between the FarHills, Peapack, and Gladstone stations, with major washouts reported on both sides of the Far Hills station.

A "washout" is a condition in which powerful water current undermines the track, often leaving the track suspended in midair. The condition can occur suddenly, and can be highly dangerous to train operations as the track often remains connected and the damage cannot be detected by the signal systems. In this case, fortunately, no damage to train movements was reported.

Read more: From The Railgram: Gladstone Branch Service Disrupted by Washouts