RARITAN VALLEY, NJ -- NJ Transit officials and engineering firm Dewberry presented results of their six-month study to determine the feasibility of introducing peak-hour, one-seat service into New York Penn Station for the Raritan Valley Line (RVL).
During the briefing, U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski (D, NJ -12) expressed dissatisfaction with the limited number of options presented and the unacceptably long timelines associated with each of the options included in the report.
Specifically, Malinowski pressed the engineers about why the introduction of shoulder-peak direct service (arrivals pre-7:00 a.m./post-9:20 a.m.), the least ambitious of the scenarios presented, would require six years to implement. He also proposed solutions for maintaining skip stop service in a one-seat ride system, and questioned why assets from other lines – those with upwards of a dozen peak-hour trains going in and out of Penn Station each day – can’t be distributed in a more equitable way.
“Given the report’s conclusions that at least some one-seat trains can be added to the RLV, it’s disappointing that NJT’s recent five and ten year strategic and capital plans do not include any funding for additional one-seat service on the RVL. This needs to be addressed, even if done so by the legislature rather than NJT,” said Fanwood Mayor Colleen . Mahr, co-chair of the Raritan Valley Line Mayors’ Alliance.
In a statement, the Alliance also expressed disappointment with the study, but noted that "there is positive data and potential for additional direct trains into NY Penn Station." According to the group, the report’s conclusions regarding the feasibility of adding one-seat ride peak period trains on the RVL, as well as one-seat trains on the weekends, requires further questioning and analysis.
The 32 Mayors of the RVL Alliance -- led by Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen, and Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle -- are united in our efforts for better and more equitable service for RVL riders.
"The RVL Mayors will continue to work with NJT and legislators toward both short and long-term solutions for better service on the RVL," the group said. "The report’s glaring omission is any analysis of growth on the RVL as a result of implementing peak period one-seat service. It also fails to recognize that many riders along the Raritan Valley Line have opted to travel to both stations with one-seat service, rather than continue to suffer through the grueling Newark-Penn train change reality that leaves many commuters frustrated and missing connections."
The report fails to recognize that these riders, not to mention other commuters who have simply given up on the RVL and instead opted for driving, taking the bus, or abandoning Manhattan jobs would likely return to the RVL if the commute were more bearable.
Congressman Malinowski challenged the authors of the study to consider alternative scenarios to quickly bring about direct peak-hour service into Manhattan for the tens of thousands of New Jerseyeans who rely on the RVL each day.
“My constituents who rely on the Raritan Valley Line can’t wait another 6 or 8 or 10 years for expanded direct service into New York City; they’ve been getting the short end for too long as it is," Malinowski said. "I was glad to engage directly and candidly with the study’s authors to push them to think more creatively about this problem.”
Malinowski has long been an outspoken advocate for RVL riders. In May 2019, he took to the House floor to highlight the challenges experienced by commuters on the line and to call for large investments in transit infrastructure. In October 2019, he joined Gov. Phil Murphy and local leaders to announce the restoration of off-peak direct service into Penn Station. In November 2019, he met with NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett to discuss the path forward for peak-hour, one-seat ride for RVL riders. In March 2020, he helped to secure $1.4 billion for the rail line as part of the CARES Act.
“We will not stop advocating for the more than 23,000 RVL riders, who deserved improved, efficient service,” stated Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle.
NJ Transit officials, Dewberry engineers, and Malinowski agreed that the long-term solution for RVL riders is the completion of the Gateway project. He has been persistent in pressuring the Trump Administration to advance the Portal Bridge replacement project into the engineering phase, a critical step before construction can begin. In June, it did so.
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