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.
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.
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