WESTFIELD, 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.

 “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.

NJ Transit’s recent purchase of 23 dual-mode locomotives, with 12 more on order, at a cost over $8 million each makes it possible for Raritan Valley customers to get into NY Penn Station without transferring in Newark. But those trains still must attain some of the time slots through the tunnels.

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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.

For years the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, has pushed for a direct train into Manhattan along the Raritan Valley line.

“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 New Jersey Transit to work hard to phase in locomotives on weekends and during peak hours,” said Martin Robins, a Trustee of the RVRC.

Robins pointed to the explosive growth of ridership and real estate values experienced by the Morris & Essex Line after that line achieved a one-seat ride in 1996.

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 advocating for the best possible solution for Raritan Valley. 

“While a one-seat ride during peak times may seem like just a convenience for some commuters, the reality is that it would foster economic growth along the whole corridor as evidenced by the growth along the Morris & Essex line after they achieved the one-seat ride,” said Mahr. “This is a wonderful opening first step, but the ultimate goal is that the Raritan Valley line needs one-seat access during peak hour for it to have an impact.”

Executive Director of the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce Heather Robinson told The Alternative Press, “One-seat ride is an issue that is about sharing and compromise. The GWACC has a responsibility to focus on the best interest of the five communities we service, but never at the expense of our larger New Jersey community. This is a step in the right direction.”