Wesmont station opens, but what will happen to Garfield?

This May, train schedules on the NJ Transit rail system are changing on May 15th.  Service changes on all of the lines will be discussed in a later post, but this one will discuss the biggest piece of news, the opening of the new Wesmont station on the Bergen County Line (BCL). The new station is in Wood-Ridge, located between Garfield station and Rutherford station. It is being developed to serve an enormous infill development site on what used to be a large industrial complex.  This is a classic transit-oriented development project.

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njtransit.com

The opening of the new station has been a long time in the making, having been initially scheduled for completion in 2011.  The station itself was completed a few months ago, but the agency delayed opening the facility until the 215-space parking lot could be completed. For a station meant to serve residents of a local apartment complex, many of whom would probably walk, delaying train service on account of parking needs alone is a questionable decision.

Most, but not all BCL trains will stop at Wesmont.  There has been speculation that Wesmont would eventually come to serve as a replacement for Garfield station, which though located in a dense urban area, has short platforms and lacks parking.  Garfield station is not served by all trains on the BCL, and it is arguable that its low ridership is caused by low service levels, not the other way around. Garfield has the lowest ridership out of all stations on the Main and Bergen County Lines, with 169 boardings per day as of Q3 2014.

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Garfield Station, via Google Maps

When service at a low-ridership station is reduced, ridership begins to further decline in a vicious circle.  This is exactly what happened at Great Notch station on the Montclair-Boonton Line.  After the enormous Montclair State University station, and its parking garage, opened in 2004, NJT began cutting back service at Great Notch.  At the end, Great Notch was down to 2 trains and 9 passengers per day. The station permanently closed in 2010.

Personally, I do not foresee any substitution effects between Garfield and Wesmont.  No significant number of Garfield riders is likely to switch to Wesmont, as I see it.  Let me explain:

  • Garfield has no parking, so train riders who need a place to park are already going to other stations.  More of them might use Wesmont, but that doesn’t mean they will stop using Garfield.
  • Garfield and Wesmont stations are far apart enough that practically no one lives in walking distance of both of them. No one that walks to Garfield now will be enticed to walk to Wesmont.
  • Anyone using a bus to reach the train won’t go to Wesmont station, as there is no bus service that passes by there.

What may happen is that there will be a substitution effect between Wesmont and Wood-Ridge station on the Pascack Valley Line. Those two stations are just over a mile apart, and neighborhood residents have to cross Route 17 to reach Wood-Ridge station.

To close, here’s a picture of the TOD project, Avalon at Wesmont Station

 

 

 

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Dwell times- why your train is slow

In theory, commuter trains can go up to 90mph, but most of the time they stop every few minutes and never reach this speed. The amount of time a train spends at each stop isn’t much, but it adds up.

This is called “dwell time,” the total time that the train stops, or “dwells” in at a station.

Here’s some data sent to me by a friend. He recorded how long his train spent at each stop, from Upper Montclair to Newark.  The timer starts when the train comes to a full stop, and ends when the train begins moving again.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.50.21 AMAccording to the Montclair Boonton-Line schedule, The trip from Upper Montclair to Newark Broad Street takes anywhere from 24 to 27 minutes. If we subtract the dwell time for Upper Montclair and Newark, The train is not moving at all for 9 minutes 33 seconds inbound and 8 minutes 45 seconds outbound. That’s anywhere from 32% to 37% of the scheduled trip time from Upper Montclair to Newark.

Now granted, the data here is from rush hour trains and doesn’t include the section of the line between New York and Newark with fewer stops, so it’s not entirely representative.

Here’s the same information in graphical format:

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You’ll notice that the stops that took the least time were Upper Montclair, Bay Street, and Watsessing. Watsessing and Upper Montclair took less time because they have lower ridership.  In Fall 2013 (the most recent available stats), Watsessing has 223 daily boardings and Upper Montclair had 519.

Bay Street, on the other hand, had 1,166 boardings, making it the busiest stop on the line.  This is interesting.  Bay Street is the busiest stop on the line yet it has one of the lowest dwell times. Continue reading

NJ Transit’s 6 least-used train stations

I did a public records request and got NJ Transit’s ridership report for fiscal year 2014.  You can request it too, or contact me and I will send you the file.  The report has station-by-station ridership numbers, and data for each individual bus line.

Here are the stations on the NJ Transit rail system that see the fewest passengers, and the number of passenger boardings they get each weekday.

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(wikimedia)

1 (tie). Mount Olive, 17

Mount Olive is the second to last stop on the Montclair-Boonton and Morristown Lines, in the middle of a small industrial park.

The station doesn’t have much to recommend itself.  There are no residential areas in the immediate vicinity, and Netcong station is more convenient to most people living in the area.

It’s also not much of a park-and-ride, with 23 parking spaces.

(wikimedia)

(wikimedia)

1. (tie) Mountain Lakes, 17

This station has very low ridership because it suffers from poor service levels,  and much more attractive services are available nearby.  Two miles to the west, Denville has frequent trains and Midtown Direct Service.  Trains from Mountain Lakes only go to Hoboken and there are only 5 inbound trains a day. The area is also served by Lakeland buses.

Mountain Lakes also has very low population density, and only a few businesses.

3. Lebanon, 20

Lebanon is a small, cute town in the country with nice old houses.  It has 15 parking spots, so 20 passengers a day is an entirely reasonable ridership number.  I assume there are some, but very few walk-up commuters.

Lebanon has relatively good train service compared to Mountain Lakes and Mount Olive.  It has 7 inbound and 10 outbound trains on weekdays, some of which are expresses.  But it’s also located right of Routes 22 and 78, which provide a much faster travel option.

4. Mount Tabor, 34 Continue reading

Montclair State University station: a disappointment with a future?

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Did we really need the clocktower?

Montclair State University station has been a bust, you could say.  NJ Transit opened the station in 2004 with high hopes, located just off Route 46 at Clove Road. The station is massive. It has a full-length completely covered high level platform, a climate-controlled bridge over the tracks accessible by four elevators, a huge clock tower, and a parking structure with 1,530 spaces.  All of this at the cost of $26 million.

The ridership never materialized. Despite 1,530 parking spots, average daily ridership was just 592 passengers in 2014.  Some of the spare capacity is used as parking for Montclair State students.  Here’s a sign of how disappointing ridership has been.  Originally, there was a small shop built into the parking structure selling coffee and pastries.  The shop has since closed.

The station is grossly overbuilt.  It didn’t live up to expectations mainly because of its poor location.  For one thing, it isn’t even very convenient to the university.  Most of the campus is actually closer to Montclair Heights Station, or at least an easier walk.  The area near the station has a few dorms and sports fields.

Here’s what Montclair State university tells visitors:

The Montclair Heights train station, located at the south end of campus, is just a few steps away from the main body of the campus. The Montclair State University train station, located at the northwest end of campus, has a campus shuttle service to the main campus area.

In other words, the station is so far from the campus it’s named after that they recommend taking a bus.

The station doesn’t provide time-competitive service to New York.  Midtown Direct trains take about 55 minutes to get to Penn Station.  In comparison, the Wayne/ Route 23 park-and-ride is about 40 minutes from the Port Authority, and it’s several miles farther away. Its 1,100 space parking lot regularly fills up and there’s an overflow lot a few miles up the road.

Furthermore, the station doesn’t have access to Route 46 west.  Clove Road is currently only an exit on 46 east.  It’s easy for suburbanites from Little Falls, West Paterson, and other towns to drive to the station, but getting back involves a 5+ minute detour on local roads, or taking 46 east, getting off the highway, making two left turns, and merging back onto 46 west. But this is about to change. Continue reading

7 proposed infill stations on the NJ Transit system

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.41.36 AMBuilding a new station on an existing rail line is usually  cheaper than extending the line farther out.

This type of development is called an infill station, so called because it fills in a gap between existing stations.

Since it took over the statewide rail system, NJ Transit has built some very successful infill stations.

On the Northeast Corridor Line, some of the busiest stops were only recently built. Hamilton, with its massive parking structure, opened in 1999 and Newark Airport opened in 2001. The Raritan Valley Line’s last stop until Newark used to be Roselle Park until 2004, when Union station opened adjacent to Kean University. It’s now one of the busiest stops on the line.

NJT’s progress in building new infill stations has slowed in the past couple years as funding has dried up.  The most recent infill station to open was the Pennsauken Transit Center, a connecting the Atlantic City Line and River Line, in 2013.  It might be too early to judge the success of this station, but it was used by an average of 75 passengers per day in 2014.

There have been proposals for several other infill stations on the NJ Transit system:

1. North Brunswick This stop would be situated on the Northeast Corridor Line between Jersey Avenue and Princeton Junction-  currently a gap of 14 miles between stations. The station depends on NJ Transit’s mid-line loop project, a proposed flyover that would allow trains to cross over all 4 tracks.

Funding has been allocated for the station in NJ Transit’s capital budget. Completion could come as early as 2018.  A transit village development is also proposed for the site.

(wikimedia)

(wikimedia)

2. Wesmont will be a station in Wood-Ridge, NJ on the Bergen County Line, opening in 2015 or 2016.  Construction on the station is mostly finished.

The nearest station is Garfield, one mile to the north.  Like North Brunswick, this station would also be accompanied by a major transit-oriented development nearby.

3. 18th Street, Jersey City would be the an infill station on the Hudson Bergen Light Rail, near the border with Hoboken. In 2012, NJ Transit received $400,000 for a study on the new station.

The site is in an industrial, redevelopable area of Jersey City that has been branded “SoHo West” by real estate interests. The station would only be financially feasible if NJ Transit received a contribution from nearby developers.

4. 17th Street, Hoboken Continue reading

NJ Transit to upgrade, relocate Lyndhurst Station, threatening Kingsland Station

NJ Transit has been making slow steps towards building high-level, ADA-accessible platforms for its commuter trains, a feat that was fully accomplished on Metro North in the 90s and the LIRR in the 70s.

One the stations selected for high-level platforms is Lyndhurst on the Main Line.  Once finished, this would be the only accessible stop between Paterson and Secaucus.

The new platforms would be located about a block to the south, on Delafield Avenue.

lyndhurstThis arrangement has its advantages.  For one, it would be located closer to a large parking lot owned by NJ Transit and used by commuters.  The lot, just to the right of the proposed new platforms, has 470 free parking spaces.

This is not the first time NJ Transit has relocated a station.  In 2012, new high-level platforms opened at Plauderville on the Bergen County Line, across the street from their original location.

The current design is also scaled back from previous concepts.  Instead of an elevator, the platforms will be accessible by a ramp, saving money.  $22 million was budgeted towards the project, but excluding the elevator, the cost will likely be under that.

The only reason to worry about this project is because of how close together Lyndhurst and Kingsland stations are. Currently, they are only .6 miles apart, and they would be a mere .5 miles apart once construction is done.

NJ Transit may, in the coming years, close Kingsland for good, Continue reading

What NJ Transit looks like for riders with disabilities

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ADA-friendly stations are few and far between

Last week we got to take a peek at a map of the ADA-accessible stations on the NYC subway.  The results were not pretty. Entire lines had be to stricken from the map because they had less than 2 accessible stops.

ADA-accessible stations have level platforms, and require no stairs to access the train.  This usually means elevators for underground stations.

In New Jersey, we have made a decent amount of progress towards an accessibile rail system, but we’re nowhere near the finish line.

Here’s what the NJ Transit system looks like with only accessible stations:

njt_accessibility

Here’s the original map of the full system, for comparison.

Some observations: Continue reading