November 23, 2022

Dinky Rail Line Should Be Turned Into Transit Corridor with Bike, Pedestrian Access

To the Editor:

I write in support of turning the Dinky rail line into a vibrant transit corridor, with bike and pedestrian access, and a new dedicated bus route that extends well into downtown Princeton.

NJ Transit deserves credit for reviewing the corridor, seeking public input, and suggesting these very upgrades. Now, with so much competition for infrastructure funds, we need the support of elected officials — particularly at the state and federal levels — to make it happen.

There is already enthusiasm on the ground. Our group, the Friends of the Dinky Corridor, recently launched a petition that has garnered signatures from folks around the Princeton area. You can read more about the effort here:

As a resident of Princeton and a high school teacher in West Windsor, the existing Dinky line strikes me as a missed opportunity. My students have no safe way of walking or biking to Nassau Street, just a few miles from their homes.

It’s a missed opportunity for Princeton’s business district as well. Consider this: 800 units of housing are currently under construction as part of the “W Squared” development at Princeton Junction.

Those new residents will take one look at clogged Route 1 feeders like Washington Road and decamp to restaurants on their own side of the highway — and no amount of al fresco charm and artisanal ice cream is going to change their minds.

What will change their minds is a more flexible rail-and-bus route that extends into downtown Princeton and runs every 10-15 minutes. It’s a win for diners, shoppers, and commuters too, as the NJ Transit proposal includes stops at the Carnegie Center office complex.

Still, there’s more than just commerce at stake. We need infrastructure that benefits young people. That matters to them. Right now, even when there’s good infrastructure news coming out of Washington, the focus is on large-scale, multi-state projects that hardly impact a teenager’s daily life.

You can understand why young people might lose faith in the system.

In the Trump years, “Infrastructure Week” turned into a kind of national joke because it would come and go and nothing happened. For teens, every week must feel like Infrastructure Week. All the lofty political rhetoric has done little to improve our suburban landscape, one that continues to neglect Americans who are too young to drive or who can’t afford a car.

NJ Transit has offered a sound proposal to get more people, more quickly to the Northeast Corridor lines. And it can fill the Dinky transitway with bicyclists and pedestrians, commuters who live and work locally, and consumers who bring money — not congestion — to our downtown.

Now is the time to fight for the upgrade. NJ Transit has made clear that, in the near future, it will cease to operate the 40-year-old Dinky train cars. In other words, this is not about getting stuck with the status quo. It’s about getting stuck with nothing at all.

Brian Levinson
Patton Avenue