December 22, 2021

Modernization of Dinky is Needed, On Rail to Be Reliable in Winter

To the Editor:

Readers who care about good modern, reliable Dinky service should read the NJ Transit (NJT) proposals at and submit comments to the survey at that website [“NJ Transit Still Seeking Public Input on Future of Dinky Transitway,” page 1, December 15].

NJT seems to be considering four proposals: continuing the Dinky as is, with no modernization, or adopting one of three expansive — and expensive — proposals that focus on much wider planning goals and/or substituting bus technology. Those three wider proposals seem to me both impossible to fund in the foreseeable future, and to neglect the core goal of Dinky service: moving people between Princeton and the Junction by reliable public, non-private-auto, transportation.

What’s needed instead is a modernization of the Dinky, continuing a rail rather than bus approach, in order to be reliable in winter weather. That alternative simply isn’t presented, though modern light-rail technology is very sophisticated and is improving constantly — and the Dinky would present a great opportunity to be a showcase in that regard.

Rather, the three “wider” approaches seem focused on better in-town public  transportation and better coordination with Dinky service. Those are important goals, but they serve different needs than the Dinky does, with different possible technologies and solutions — and much longer time frames than would be needed to change only the Dinky. In the long run, the specific needs of “Princeton Junction and back” will be met far more quickly and effectively by pursuing the Dinky and in-town goals separately, and then be sure that schedules are “synched” appropriately.

When we return to a post-pandemic world, with high NJT ridership and very tight parking at the Junction, Dinky ridership will increase, and we’ll need to serve it well. Instead, the current NJT proposals are essentially (1) to do nothing, or (2) to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Neither of those is acceptable.

I encourage Town Topics readers to visit the NJT website, submit their own views, and share those views in this Mailbox.

Jeff Orleans
Meadowbrook Drive