May rail changes bring better weekend service at North Elizabeth

This May, timetable changes on the NJ Transit rail system bring a pleasant surprise.  The big story, other than the opening of Wesmont Station, is the expansion of weekend train service at North Elizabeth on the Northeast Corridor Line.

North Elizabeth is one of the least-used stops on the NEC Line, with an average of 553 weekday passengers boarding at the stop in FY 2014.  Ridership is up, year-over-year. FY 2015 saw an average of 599 boardings at North Elizabeth, a nearly 10% increase. For comparison, during the same period total rail ridership increased by 2%.

Until recently, North Elizabeth saw only sporadic service on the weekends.  Most trains would speed past the station without stopping, and riders would have to make the hike over to Downtown Elizabeth to catch the train.  North Elizabeth will now have train service every 1-2 hours throughout the day on weekends.

What’s to account for the sudden boost in service?  It might be a recent transit-oriented development project called Station Commons, a 100-unit apartment building that just opened immediately adjacent to the station.

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With a giant brownfield development site right across the street, development in the station area can only go up from here.

Hopefully, this is a microcosm of what is happening across New Jersey.  New developments are going in at formerly depressed neighborhoods near train stations: Harrison, Bloomfield, Orange, and the list goes on.

Other schedule changes are minor.  On the Main/Bergen Lines, some trains that terminated at Waldwick will now run only to Ridgewood, and other Ridgewood trains are being extended to Waldwick. Summer Coast Line expresses to the beach are back for the season, as well as more frequent Bay Head shuttles. And a few evening trains are adding new stops on the inner Morris and Essex Lines, offering more frequent service for local suburb-to-suburb riders on that line.

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