CENTRAL NJ —NJ TRANSIT has announced that riders on the Raritan Valley line will get a “one-seat” ride in Spring of 2014, but only during off-peak hours.
Currently, Raritan Valley line commuters must exit their diesel-powered train at Newark and change to an electric train operating on the Northeast Corridor, often on a separate platform, to take them into Midtown’s Penn Station New York, as diesel locomotives are not allowed in the tunnel under the Hudson River.
NJ TRANSIT’s recent purchase of 23 dual-mode locomotives, with 12 more on order, at a cost over $8 million each, now makes it possible for Raritan Valley customers to get into NY Penn Station without transferring in Newark, giving commuters a “one seat” ride with no transfer.
The decision to begin allocating the new locomotives was announced by NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Jim Weinstein at an Aug. 2 meeting with Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz and Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky, according to a press release by District 21.
“The exact number of trains that will be included as well as the specific times are still being determined,” said John Durso, Jr., a spokesperson for NJ TRANSIT.
The most sought-after time slots—the ones that experts say would raise property values along the line the most—are those during the morning and evening peak hours, none of which the Raritan Valley Line will get this spring.
“We are still studying peak hour one-seat ride service, but this still faces significant logistical challenges,” said Durso.
Proponents of the “one seat” ride, such as the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, which has pushed for 15 years for a direct train into Manhattan along the Raritan Valley line, will continue to ask for additional access.
“I welcome this as a break-through first step, and I commend everyone who has worked on this, especially the initiative of Westfield’s Mayor Andy Skibitsky. However, we need to continue to advocate and ask NJ TRANSIT to work hard to phase in locomotives on weekends and during peak hours,” said Martin Robins, a Trustee of the RVRC.
Fanwood Mayor Coleen Mahr has been working with the RVRC to reach out to all the mayors along the line, to ensure all towns have a voice in determining the best possible solution for Raritan Valley.
“While a one-seat ride during weekends and weekday peak times may seem like just a convenience for some , the reality is that it would foster economic growth along the whole corridor as evidenced by the growth along the Morris and Essex line after that line achieved the “one seat” ride,” said Mayor Mahr.
“This is a wonderful opening first step, but the ultimate goal is that The Raritan Valley line needs “one seat” access during weekends and peak hours for it to have an impact,” concluded Mayor Mahr.