WESTFIELD, NJ – The Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC) held its quarterly meeting in the Westfield council chamber on Monday morning to share with the public the outcome of their recent meeting with NJ Transit executives and to hear about the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) taking place in Cranford, a stop along the Union County portion of the Raritan Valley Line.
The RVRC has been advocating for the Raritan Valley Line to receive direct access to New York for nearly 20 years, and in March of this year the first “one seat” ride was achieved in a limited off peak schedule through the use of dual powered locomotives. The “one seat ride” refers to the commuter being able to stay in one seat instead of having to transfer in Newark.
RVRC Chairman Peter Palmer, a freeholder from Somerset County, gave the overview of the June meeting with NJ Transit. The RVRC trustees were pleased that progress was being made with getting the “one seat” ride extended into the after 8 pm time period by the Fall schedule of 2014.
The coalition asked NJ Transit to investigate making two additional trains “one seat” rides during the current off peak schedule. Chairman Palmer also shared NJT plans for implementing weekend “one seat” service by fall of 2015.
Chairman Palmer noted he felt the door “was open a little wider” but emphasized the need to keep the public focused on the ultimate goal of a peak hour “one seat” ride train to service the thousands of commuters who would benefit from not having to change trains in Newark.
Another RVRC Trustee Tom Jardim highlighted how NJ Transit has not made any firm commitments on the concept of a peak hour “one seat” ride. “When you look over everything that NJ TRANSIT has said, at no time have they promised what we ultimately want – peak hour access. That makes it very important for the RVRC to keep the public focused on this subject.”
Kathleen Miller Prunty, director of business and economic development for Cranford, presented an informative overview of their Transit Oriented Development success, showing the various new developments grouped around the train station, essentially providing a blueprint of what many more towns along the line could do if the peak hour “one seat” ride was achieved.
Mindy Scarlett, owner of Fanwood-based The Scarlett Marketing Group, presented a report on how RVRC is using social media in its lobbying efforts for peak service one seat ride, with the goal of getting information out to the public and involve them in the “conversation” whether it be on the group's Facebook page, Twitter account or just visiting the website for the most up-to-date information.
Scarlett shared that RVRC needs social media “advocates” from towns along the Raritan Valley Line that would participate in the social media process and called for volunteers.
In the open forum at the end of the meeting, Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr and Plainfield Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Dunn both called for the public and local officials to work together on the ultimate goal of getting peak hour access to the “one seat” ride.