A plan to remove tracks and set Princeton's historic Dinky train station back several hundred feet has some worried it could mean the end of America's shortest regularly scheduled rail line altogether.
The train station serves a line dubbed the Dinky, a two-car passenger train that takes riders from Princeton to Princeton Junction, a 2.7 mile, five-minute ride for $2.75. The line is seen as a key connection for riders who can hop trains to New York and Philadelphia at Princeton Junction.
The plan approved June 25 is a property transfer that allows New Jersey Transit to hand Princeton University 460 feet of track that the university would remove to help make way for a $320 million arts center. It also means the train station will be farther set back, making for a longer walk to downtown Princeton.
The project is part of an ongoing construction plan that began in March, university spokesman Martin Mbugua said.
According to the plan, a new platform and station are expected to be completed in time for the next school year. New traffic patterns are also planned for Alexander Road, a main thoroughfare that leads to the center of town.
But some vehemently oppose setting the station back because of the longer walk into town. Rail enthusiasts say there is a risk that setting the station back could decrease ridership because passengers would find other modes of transportation that would drop them off closer.
“That could be the justification in the long run to eliminate the service,” said Jack May, vice president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers who opposes the plan.
May said shortening the tracks “is a decapitation” of the service and could prove to be even more inconvenient to those with disabilities.
But New Jersey Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said a new modern station will be beneficial to riders, especially those with disabilities, and it will create better access to buses.
A local committee -- Save the Dinky -- includes attorneys who are behind litigation to try and stop the project, citing procedural issues and its historic value. The 148-year-old line predates the Orient Express.
Save the Dinky President Anita Garoniak said she hopes an appeal with the Surface Transportation Board to stop the project will urge New Jersey Transit and Princeton University to “finally respect the public interest in walkable transportation and in the preservation of an historic in-town train station.”