New Dinky Station Operating Since Monday
In spite of having no heat in the waiting room, commuters were happy to be able to find shelter from Monday’s inclement weather and enjoy the free hot coffee that was available when the Princeton Dinky Station opened at its new permanent location on Alexander Street.
The Dinky had been out of service for a week, during which time commuters used bus links like the University-operated TigerTransit and the FreeB as well as other means to get to and from Princeton Junction.
Commuters who had negotiated their way from town Monday were generally pleased by what they found. An electronic message board welcomed them to Princeton University, familiar ticket vending machines were located under a canopied platform, and a new waiting room can accommodate 167 people with bench seating inside and more seating built into the exterior walls outside. And while there are no restrooms on the platform, there are restrooms available inside the new Wawa store nearby, which will be open 24 hours a day beginning Friday, November 21. The taxi stand has already relocated to the new Transit Plaza and there is short-term parking out front as well as at the north end of the Princeton Station parking lot, although parts of the lot remain closed or occupied by construction vehicles as work continues.
Workers in hard hats had been out in numbers at the station site Sunday in preparation for Monday’s opening. Sidewalks were swept, panels were attached to the exterior and the heating panel inside the waiting room was being worked on.
Work continued Monday morning as passengers arrived to board the first trains to and from Princeton Junction. Some appeared unsure as to the extent of changes made. One asked uniformed conductor Bob Gibbs whether extra stations had been added to the route. They have not. The most significant change is to the station’s location, some 460 feet south of the old station site with its stone buildings on University Place.
One traveler expressed her disapproval of the move. Lynn Nadeau was en route to Boston Monday morning after visiting her son Teddy Nadeau and daughter-in-law Kristen Thoft. “I first took the Dinky in 1958 when I came to Princeton to visit my high school boyfriend. I remember walking to Pyne Hall. It really has changed,” she said. No stranger to the controversy surrounding the Dinky move, Ms. Nadeau expressed the opinion held by many in the town. “I was against it. I feel that the town was railroaded (no pun intended) into the move; it’s a longer walk for commuters.”
The new Princeton Station is part of the University’s $330 million Arts and Transit project with more work anticipated as new arts and performance spaces are constructed and the old train station buildings are turned into a restaurant and cafe between now and 2017. The Arts and Transit neighborhood will include the Lewis Center for the Arts, as well as art gallery, dance, and music rooms for students.
“Things have been going well so far,” said Princeton University’s Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristen S. Appelget who had been on hand since 5 a.m. “It’s a cold and damp day so people are happy to have a place to go indoors; we’ve had passengers here for every train and we’ve seen a lot of suitcases so it appears that Thanksgiving travel has begun.”
Even as commuters settle in to using the new station, lawsuits filed by residents and the Save the Dinky group designed to stop the station move are making their way through the judicial system. The suits question the legality of the contract between New Jersey Transit and Princeton University as well as zoning changes and site plan approval for the project.