January 16, 2019

With Original Ridership Holding Strong, Dinky Is Poised for Some Real Growth 

To the Editor:

While the Dinky did lose 22 percent of its ridership after the relocation of the Station, 78 percent of its original ridership has remained and is holding strong!  Before the temporary suspension to help NJT with its Federal PTC retrofit deadline, ridership losses on the Dinky had leveled off despite the apparent allure of parking permits at the Junction. Princeton is slowing initiating it’s GoPrinceton transit campaign. The Dinky is now poised for some real growth.   

While there have a been a few days during the year where NJT unforgivably has had service problems, by-and-large the Dinky has delivered passengers day-in and day-out on-time at the Junction with just a short passenger hop onto waiting trains. There are a lot of advantages that Dinky riders enjoy over those who use Junction parking, hiking through the parking lot in the wind, rain, and snow, day-in and day-out. 

There are big problems with the substitute buses. Passengers get caught in traffic like everybody else, not to mention that big pause at the Alexander Street Bridge!  Use of the buses has added tremendously to commuter time and uncertainty for Dinky riders, and contributed to area congestion.

Right now, before the suspension, annual ridership according to figures from NJT under OPRA, was slated to be about 470,000 for 2018. That’s a monthly average ridership of around 40,000. That’s a lot of people in the wee hours of the morning plus the commuter rush at night.  These are folks staying off area roads converging on the Junction. We don’t want these riders giving up on the Dinky and joining the masses in cars and buses. With growth in Princeton University’s enrollment Princeton’s population has taken a small jump while West Windsor with its open space is spurting right along, adding to area congestion.

There are two large multi-family projects in the works for Princeton Junction that are expected to contribute strongly to congestion in the area of the Junction Station. The Hughes Property on Route 1 at Quakerbridge (formally the American Cyanamid Property) is slated for development, and is expected to provide housing and office/retail space for thousands. Last September, the Hughes Corporation filed a lawsuit against West Windsor Township for not moving faster on approvals for the property. Imagine the congestion that is going to be added to the Route 1 corridor! We need the Dinky!

In our horoscope is another interesting event, the shutdown of Alexander Street for the replacement of three bridges in a coordinated Mercer County-NJDOT project.  Alexander Street will be closed for 4-5 months starting this fall. Taking the Dinky will provide the perfect opportunity for new riders headed to the Junction to skip detour gridlock.

There is a lot of loyalty to the Dinky. Having been a commuter myself with a 3 hour and 20 minute commute (each way) that I endured daily for several years from Harrisburg to Center City Philly, I can tell you that what a commuter seeks is consistency and quiet first thing in the morning, and coffee. On that, the Dinky delivers. On Princeton University’s website it says that 57 percent of its employees are from Mercer County. That means that 43 percent are from outside Mercer County, a number of whom come in on the Dinky daily.

The PTC retrofit is done. While NJT seems to be trying to squeeze in some deferred maintenance, enough is enough. We need the Dinky to resume service, NOW!   

Kip Cherry
Dempsey Avenue