Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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Dinky’s Fate Debated as Reed Makes Case for Bus Rapid Transit

Dilshanie Perera

A partnership between New Jersey Transit and local municipalities could result in a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system replacing the much-beloved Dinky train shuttle connecting the Princeton Junction station to a site on campus.

Master Plan Subcommittee Chair and Regional Planning Board member Marvin Reed presented a case for BRT at the Borough Council meeting last week. Township Committee also heard the presentation during their scheduled meeting. The proposal involves replacing the Dinky tracks with a two-way dedicated road that only BRT buses could drive on, as well as a pedestrian and bicycle pathway.

The normally five-minute Dinky ride would take approximately 10 minutes with the bus system, but service could be provided more frequently and would cost less, Mr. Reed said.

Another benefit would be the possibility of expanding the BRT system to include existing roadways, thereby better connecting parts of town, with stops along Nassau Street, Witherspoon Street, and Harrison Street. The rapid transit route itself could terminate at Nassau Street, which would bring the service that the Dinky provides closer to the heart of town, thereby improving upon what already exists, Mr. Reed suggested.

The possibility of moving the Dinky has seen opposition in the recent past, with Princeton University proposing designs for an Arts and Transit Neighborhood along the University Place and Alexander Road corridor. Those designs would shift the Dinky station about 460 feet south in order to incorporate a more usefully designed transit hub.

Talks about regional traffic congestion and roadway improvements have been going on for years, Mr. Reed said during a recent Princeton Future meeting. Out of these discussions, and others with New Jersey Transit and the state Department of Transportation, the possibility of a BRT system emerged.

The proposal was met with opposition by various residents, who were skeptical about laying the 145-year-old train to rest. The historic significance of the Dinky, increased transit time, and public reluctance to ride the new system were all cited as major concerns.

Council President Andrew Koontz noted his concerns regarding the idea, while Council members Kevin Wilkes and David Goldfarb commented about the potential efficacy of the rapid transit system and the overall viability of the Dinky given the recent N.J. Transit cutbacks.

The future of the Bus Rapid Transit system and the Dinky has not been determined yet, and a BRT system would take an estimated three to four years to roll out. Residents will have the opportunity to make their views known at upcoming Borough Council and Township Committee open public meetings, when the issue comes before the governing bodies as a resolution for approval. The Master Plan Subcommittee will continue analyzing the issue.

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