Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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Memorandum Details Dinky’s Fate

Dilshanie Perera

The “memorandum of understanding” resulting from the closed-door negotiations between Princeton Borough, Princeton Township, and Princeton University that was made public last week revealed more details about the fate of the Dinky. The location of the Dinky’s terminus in the University Place/Alexander Road area has been a main focus of the public discussion of the University’s Arts and Transit Neighborhood proposal.

The three negotiating entities formally agreed that “preserving and enhancing” the Dinky rail line service between Princeton and Princeton Junction is foremost among their goals. The provisions of the memo would go into effect “if and when the Planning Board adopts a resolution granting final site plan approval to Princeton University for its Arts and Transit proposal.”

The memo does not specify the location of the Dinky and does leave open the possibility that the University may move it further south as delineated in the proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood plan. If the terminus move were to occur, the University has agreed not to “move the station further south as long as heavy rail service is in existence.”

A future light rail easement also would be provided by the University in perpetuity “to accommodate light rail service or other mass transit service” to Nassau Street if such a system is established. However, if the right of way is not used for transit purposes within 50 years of train service from the new station location, the commitment granting such an easement will expire.

Additionally, the University and the two municipalities will attempt to garner approvals from New Jersey Transit to open the current north station waiting room for public use for five hours each weekday for at least six months.

Increasing and promoting Dinky ridership will be another area of focus, as will providing additional Dinky service, potentially including off-peak and weekend hours.

The University has agreed to schedule its Tiger Transit shuttles to meet all incoming Dinky trains and to travel up to Nassau Street during morning and evening peak commuter hours. All Tiger Transit shuttles are currently free and open to the public, and will remain so for public use at the present and future stations.

Features of the proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood site are designed to increase Dinky ridership, and a new station would be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a convenience store and other amenities housed within. The station would be located within a new transit plaza designed for easy vehicular drop-off.

The memorandum of understanding also details the “next generation transit service.” When the University files its Arts and Transit Neighborhood application with the Planning Board, a joint task force comprised of members of both municipalities and the University will be created to assess the viability of forming an improvement district focused on mass transit in that corridor.

The task force would also conduct a formal study to evaluate “long-term transit needs and service to Nassau Street,” including looking into light rail. Funding for the study would be provided by the University and two municipalities, with the cost divided into 50, 25, and 25 percent, respectively.

Furthermore, Princeton University will provide $250,000 to establish a mass transit trust fund for studies, planning, and implementation related to improvements in the transit needs of Princeton.

The draft memorandum was discussed at Tuesday night’s Borough Council meeting (after Town Topics press time) with the full report on the discussion to appear in next week’s issue. See page one for Township Committee’s reaction to the transit negotiation.

The full text of the memorandum can be found on the Borough’s website at princetonboro.org.

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