February 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM
WESTFIELD, NJ -- Beginning on Monday, March 3, NJ Transit will offer "One Seat" rides into New York City on the Raritan Valley Line during weekday off-peak periods. Thanks to new dual-powered locomotives, commuters who take these trains will be able to ride into Manhattan without having to transfer in Newark Penn Station.
NJ Transit is scheduling five "One Seat" trips into and out of New York Penn Station. The first one will depart at 9:16 a.m. and arrive in New York at 10:09 a.m.
The Raritan Valley line, which comprises about 10 percent of NJ Transit ridership, currently is powered by diesel engines. It is the only NJ Transit line for which passengers must transfer in Penn Station Newark for a connection into midtown Manhattan because diesel trains are not allowed to operate in the tunnels into Manhattan. The Raritan Valley line serves High Bridge, Annandale, Lebanon, White House, North Branch, Raritan, Somerville, Bridgewater, Bound Brook, Dunellen, Plainfield, Netherwood, Fanwood, Westfield, Garwood, Cranford, Roselle Park and Union.
After the ARC Tunnel project was cancelled in 2010, NJ Transit decided to purchase three dozen dual-powered locomotives that can switch from diesel to electric power in about two minutes. With the use of these new engines enable the Raritan Valley to operate its “One Seat” service.
NJ Transit has not released a timeframe or procedures for the further deployment of the dual-powered locomotives. It is clear that "One Seat" rides will not be available for morning and evening rush hours any time soon. The amount of trains that can go through the Amtrak-run tunnels into New York City is currently at capacity (25 trains per hour).
Tom Morgan, senior director of rail service planning for NJ Transit, told the audience at Raritan Valley Rail Coalition meeting held at Westfield Municipal Court this morning that the train line will have additional train crews, and will incur an increase in fuel costs. However, no fair increases are scheduled to accommodate the new service.
The introduction of "One Seat" service will come in phases:
Step 1: Off-peak weekday
Step 2: Evening outbound after 8 p.m.
Step 3: Weekend service
Step 4: Weekday peak service
No parking accommodations planned for towns like Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Westfield and Cranford.
"There are (parking) issues in a number of stations," said Tom Morgan.
NJ Transit plans to publicize the new "One Seat" service through social media and by passing out schedules during off-peak trains.
"They've got to let people know this is available," said Michael A. Weinstock, a Scotch Plains resident who attended the morning meeting.
"It should be a coordinated effort, including social media, newspapers, digital signage on trains, posters in the station windows, public service announcements at the stations while people are awaiting, and announcements on trains when they pull into Newark," added Weinstock, who travels into New York City twice a week.
Facts About the Raritan Valley Rail "One Seat Ride"
- Raritan Valley Line is NJ TRANSIT’s only major line with track connectivity to NYC without access to a “One Seat Ride” and it represents 10% of total ridership of all lines with connectivity.
- Alternative plans to give Raritan Valley access to a “One Seat Ride” such as new rail tunnels are uncertain, costly and at best, many years in the future.
- “One Seat Ride” is currently possible without major construction by using new, dual-powered locomotives that run on diesel fuel and electricity
- “One Seat Ride” will decrease travel time and increase property values. (When the Morris and Essex line got the “One Seat Ride” in 1996 property values along the line rose significantly.)
- NJ Transit will soon initiate a “pilot” “One Seat Ride” on the Raritan Valley Line to Penn Station New York for midday, off-peak weekday trains.