29 November 2007

All Aboard?

The Hillsborough Township Committee is set to pass a resolution endorsing the re-activation of passenger rail service on the CSX West Trenton Line. This is supposed to be a first step in the town's effort to lobby New Jersey Transit. In reality, the towns involved have been in favor of this plan for a long time - it wouldn't have gotten this far if they had been opposed.

That's one way of looking at it. A cynic might say that NJ Transit is going to do what they want, whether the towns are with them or against them. A cynic might think that today's meeting at the municipal complex was more about "promotion" than "feedback". Was it? I was unable to attend - so you tell me.

The most interesting statistic from NJ Transit's study of the project comes from the "ridership forecast". They estimate that there will be 2,660 riders each day on the new service. That sounds pretty good - until you realize that 1,420 of those riders will be commuters that have moved over from other rail lines. There will be only 1,240 NEW riders per day on this $220 million railroad! Did I mention that those are 2007 dollars - and that the line would also need $12 million a year in operating subsidies from the state (that means you and me).

And don't forget - NJ Transit actually uses the term "trips", not "riders". When we realize that nearly ALL of the trips will be "round trips", then we conclude that just 620 PEOPLE will be ditching their cars to ride the rails each day - 620 people from all of the towns along the route - Ewing, Hopewell Township, Hopewell Boro, Montgomery, Hillsborough, as well as the other neighboring towns.

Despite that, I'm for it. If they just change one thing...

1 comment:

  1. I imagine you are leaning towards changing the location of our station. I'm not so sure - originally my neighbors and I strongly opposed having the station virtually at the "mouth of our neighborhood." But serving on the planning board during the revision of the town center and transit village portion of the master plan revision, in my gut I sense the logic of having the station at the juncture of major intersections, rather than forcing drivers to weave through residential streets (and Hamilton) to access a more remote locale, on Sunnymead Rd. And leaving the station at Amwell certainly constitutes it being in my back yard, so to speak.

    But I am open to hearing other points of view. Not that I have any real say at this point. I did speak with the Courier reporter, who nice as she is, already kind of misquoted me in the on-line version of this story. Maybe not a direct misquote, but she omits so much and takes my words so out of context that the meaning is not representative of what I actually said. So much for believing everything you read.

    Back to this transit meeting. I do think they were looking for feedback. They specified several vehicles by which one could get their thoughts or concerns on the record, and really pushed that people do this. At the meeting, there were papers for writing down comments, directives to emails, phone numbers, web sites, etc. and a court stenographer there to make an accurate record for anyone wanting to speak right there. They stressed the need to put feedback in writing so that it is not heresay. To me, this all looked pretty authentic. This doesn't mean they will address every concern or reconsider their plans based on concerns, but sometimes that does happen. And I'm a skeptic, yet I have seen feedback being taken into account.

    The information presented was more of an overview than an in-depth presentation. I guess I will have to read the EA report.