In Westfield, Raritan Valley Rail Coalition Gives Updates on One-Seat Ride

State Sen. Kean, Freeholder Estrada, Real Estate Professional Mary Ellen O'Boyle, RVRC Peter Palmer, Freeholder Kowalski, Freeholder Bergen and Freeholder Mirabella at Monday's RVRC meeting. Credits: Kate Brochu
Raritan Valley Rail Coalition Chairman Peter Palmer is welcomed by Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky at Monday morning's RVRC meeting. Credits: Kate Brochu

WESTFIELD, NJ —  Raritan Valley Rail Coalition Chairman Peter Palmer spoke about the possibility of a one-seat ride on the train line during peak hours at the RVRC meeting held Monday morning at the Westfield Municipal Building.

“The news is not good,” Palmer said.

According to Palmer, in order to gain any progress on the one-seat ride initiative, Penn Station needs to be renovated. He's pushing for advocacy so that New Jersey commuters will be considered during renovation planning.

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“The Raritan Valley Line clearly deserves the one-seat ride into Manhattan,” said Palmer, who added that until improvements are made to tunnels, Penn Station and Newark, a one-seat ride is likely not possible.

“The only way is to take away service from some other line and that doesn’t seem to be realistically feasible or politically feasible or whatever you want to say,” he said.

Palmer, along with six Raritan Valley Rail Coalition trustees and two staff persons, met with NJ Transit staff on Thursday, Sept. 28, to propose the possibility of an early evening one-seat ride. The proposal was turned down due to the shortage of track space in New York Penn Station, according to meeting notes from the Quarterly One Seat Ride Briefing between NJ Transit Staff and the RVRC trustees.

Local real estate professional Mary Ellen O’Boyle of Sotheby’s International Realty discussed the trend in Transit Oriented Development and how it may impact local downtown areas at Monday morning’s meeting.

“On the positive side, this really could be fabulous for all of our towns,” she said. “It can encourage businesses to come into the towns and open up shop because they know they’re going to have the foot traffic.”

O’Boyle went on to address the downside of the increase in population due to the new development in regard to transit.

“If you have even five thousand people and even half of those people get on the train, that’s another twenty-five hundred people trying to get on a train at rush hour,” said O’Boyle, who used this example at the NJ Transit meeting in September. According to O’Boyle, NJ Transit suggested that they would add additional train cars if they noticed that the volume could not be managed with the existing trains. O’Boyle said that this isn’t necessarily a solution as some train station platforms are not long enough to accommodate longer trains.

“It’s going to be a real challenge for them,” she said.

O’Boyle went on to address concerns about the high occupancy housing market as it relates to increasing the number of students in our schools. Mayor Robert Fazen of Bound Brook, along with Cranford Director of Downtown Business and Economic Development Kathleen Miller Prunty, said that their experience has found that very few children inhabit the high-occupancy apartments.

“The school population just has not skyrocketed, it simply hasn’t,” said Prunty, who noted that most occupants are empty-nesters. “Let’s also remember these developments pay enormous property taxes that go to support the community and the school system,” she added.

Attendees at Monday's meeting included former Westfield Mayor and Vice Chairman of the RVRC Tom Jardim, current Mayor Andy Skibitsky, mayorial candidate Shelley Brindle, several freeholders and New Jersey State Senator Tom Kean, Jr.

The next meeting of the RVRC has not been scheduled, as members of the coalition do not want to plan meetings without having new updates to share. Until then, Mindy Scarlett, a marketing strategist representing the RVRC, encouraged the public to visit the coalition’s social media platforms and to share their petition and topical news to help spread the word and strengthen advocacy for the Raritan Valley one-seat ride.

Palmer concluded the meeting by announcing the end of his two-year term as the chairman of the NJTPA. Union County Freeholder Angel Estrada will take over the role in January. 

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