February 27, 2019

Dinky Restart Date Coming This Week

By Anne Levin

Commuters awaiting the resumption of service on the Dinky train line will have an actual date by the end of this week.

“As per the governor’s direction, by the end of the week we will be providing customers with a date certain for the restoration of service on the Atlantic City Rail Line and the Princeton Dinky,” said Nathan A. Rudy, senior public information officer for NJ Transit.

According to New Jersey Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson, who chairs the Assembly’s transportation committee, Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement at an appearance in Hamilton, related to another matter, on Tuesday morning.

Service on the Dinky and two other NJ Transit lines, suspended since October for the federally mandated, system-wide installation of Positive Train Control (PTC), was originally supposed to resume in January. Much to the frustration of commuters, NJ Transit moved the date to the end of the second quarter, meaning by the end of June. Last week, it was announced that the date for resuming service would be announced within three weeks.

At the Dinky station on February 20, NJ Transit held an information session for commuters. On hand for the gathering were Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation; NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett; Assemblyman Benson; Assemblyman Roy Freiman; Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker; Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert; and Princeton Council members David Cohen, Eve Niedergang, and Tim Quinn.

Gutierriez-Scaccetti, who became DOT commissioner last June, stressed that the shutdown was due not only to the PTC installation, but to long-standing problems throughout the system. “What we inherited was just a mess,” she said. “I apologize to all of you.”

Retirements and a lack of properly-

trained personnel are part of the problem, as is the fact that the training of workers, which takes 18 to 24 months, had been suspended. It has now resumed, and a class of trained engineers will graduate in April. Officials denied rumors that many NJ Transit workers had decamped to higher-paying agencies such as Metro North and the Long Island Railroad.

Commuters and others in attendance made it clear that they wanted to know one thing: when service will resume. Some wanted to know why there was no advance notice before the Dinky was shut down, and Gutierrez-Scaccetti promised that commuters would be given notice of the restoration of service at least two weeks before the date.

Councilman Cohen commented that learning to drive the 2.7-mile Dinky line doesn’t take as much time as longer lines. One of the spokesmen for NJ Transit disagreed, saying proper licensing and certification is necessary for every engineer, no matter which route. “We can’t run them ragged,” said Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “The law doesn’t allow it. The Princeton situation is no different.”

Problems have been brewing at NJ Transit “for the last 12  years,” she added. “We have made tremendous progress, but we’re not there yet. The goal is to develop a system we don’t have to talk about every day.”