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Vol. LXIV, No. 49
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
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Decision on Dinky Improvements This Week

Dilshanie Perera

The Regional Planning Board of Princeton is poised to decide whether or not it endorses Dinky improvements during its scheduled open public meeting this Thursday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Township Municipal Complex. The Circulation Committee met on Monday to discuss the resolutions it will be proposing to the Planning Board.

Committee Chair Yina Moore noted that “this is the first time there’s actually been a resolution on the Dinky,” referring to the railcar that runs between the Princeton University Campus and New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor station at Princeton Junction.

Debate at the meeting primarily dealt with whether the committee and planning board should take a stand on the positioning of the Dinky prior to seeing Princeton University’s final plans for its proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood, which would alter the landscape around the Dinky station and potentially also move the rail station south and further away from the downtown.

As they currently stand, the resolutions up for consideration include one calling for New Jersey Transit to continue and improve the Dinky rail service with the support and assistance of the Planning Board. The second resolution advocates for the establishment of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System along the Route One Corridor in order to ease congestion in the area. The third supports near-term service improvements for the 605 and 606 buses, as well as the institution of a Route 655 bus system from Princeton to Plainsboro, and the the eventual establishment of a 651 BRT express route from Burlington County to Princeton.

The major point of contention during the circulation committee’s meeting was language in the Dinky resolution that was eventually replaced, but that stated that the Planning Board would “work with all other parties to redesign the Arts/Transit District proposed by Princeton University so as not to move the ‘Dinky’ Station south of its current location.”

Township Committeeman Lance Liverman said that he felt uncomfortable with stating that the station should not move south, while Gail Ullman noted that the Planning Board had not decided on the issue of the Dinky’s location yet. Township Mayor Bernie Miller suggested that specifically stating where the Dinky’s terminus would be, particularly in light of the fact that the Arts and Transit Neighborhood’s design has not been finalized, may be a “bit of an overreach.”

“This resolution is to express our continued support of the Dinky; it’s not a discussion about location,” noted Planning Board member Julie Nachamkin, calling the wording “presumptuous.”

Marvin Reed admitted that over the course of presenting information to the Board and others about a BRT system in the area, he found that it “was more complicated than what I maybe had realized, but we had to get it out into the public. It revealed much about public sentiment, and also technicalities that we weren’t aware of.”

“I’m very concerned with taking a step that prejudges an application,” Ms. Ullman noted, while Ms. Moore pointed out that in terms of protecting space, most “major infrastructure planning does not wait for development to occur.”

Borough Councilman Andrew Koontz remarked that in the University’s plan regarding the Arts and Transit Neighborhood, what “has been consistent over a number of years has been moving the Dinky.” Mr. Reed said that a question about whether it was absolutely necessary to move the train station featured in the Master Plan Subcommittee’s first response to the University’s Campus Plan and proposal.

Vice President and Secretary for Princeton University Bob Durkee characterized his concern as “taking one element out of the plan and taking it out of context,” emphasizing that “lots of things can be done to improve Dinky service by moving it to the south” that may not be able to be achieved if the station stays exactly where it is. He added that the University is aware of the sentiment of the community, but that “it strikes me as a better planning process to look at all of the goals together.”

Calling the Dinky a “public facility,” Kip Cherry said that “it is up to the public to guide the University … the will of the community is fairly clear already: the Dinky should stay where it is currently located.”

After the discussion, it was decided that the Dinky resolution would be amended to read that if the Dinky station is of concern to the community, discussion of all aspects of its location is to be considered at duly noticed public meetings before any conclusions are made.

After the Planning Board discusses and either adopts or rejects the resolutions on Thursday night, they will be sent to Borough Council and Township Committee for concurrence and will also be passed along to other neighboring municipalities along the Dinky line and the Route One Corridor.

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