Ideas for the Princeton Junction and Back

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Ideas for the Princeton Junction and Back
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, October 23, 2017 10:06 AM

Basically, Princeton U wanted ot repurpose the land around the station, and the new station is even further from downtown, further reducing the usefulness of the shuttle.  Proposals to convert the line to conventional light rail have not gotten anywhere.

I think the situation deserves something special.  I envision it as a very special light rail line, using the same overhead wire and electric power transmisstion to the two rail cars O(no greater number required), with transformers and rectifiers for modern conventional inverter-as-motor light rail contemporary technology.  The line would then be extended west as a streetcar line, and on the campus and streets, battery and super-capacity storage power would be used, withoiut overhead wires.

The two long articulaed cars would be designed to be capable on running on the corridor to the New Jersey Transit multiple unit and electric locomotive maintenance facility.  One design might be two higih-floor A sections with the enginers cab and each end, with doors for loading at hight platforms, and a low-floor B section between them for level-loading at street sidewalk level.  Four trucks, except for the transformers and rectifiers, equipment duplicated that on NJT's two existing electric light rail operations, Hudson-Bergan and Newark.

The west end of the line would be a one-block loop on Nassau Street, the track at the eastern curb.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 3:24 PM

That in almost no way matches the Princeton I’m familiar with.

The recent ‘reduction’ (and relocation) of track only represents a couple of hundred feet south of the old ‘20s box and its platform; there is a VERY expensive and ‘architectural’ new station in that location that cannot possibly be designed to accommodate run-through with even Electroliner-style curve performance to the north.  The track of course is, as it has been even in the days it terminated in the shadow of Blair Arch steps, already on the far west edge of campus.  Repeatedly and emphatically rejected by public and by local politicians is any idea of ‘street running’ with large cars on either University Place or Alexander Street; access track to achieve the latter ‘could’ have been laid while the old WaWa was out, but would be impossible now, and the rebuilding of Alexander south to an enormous interchange at Rt.1 has made it a major auto corridor.  Where you would go to the west to pick up any meaningful traffic of any economic level, even assuming you could impede local streets or condemn enough very expensive property otherwise, is a mystery.  Going east the administration building at New South and Spelman dorms (now renamed something I don’t remember) squarely block any direct track near the new station, and most of what you reach across the ‘bottom’ of campus is much more developed than in the ‘70s; everything in that whole area all the way east past Harrison St. is either academic housing or faculty residences, a nice major NIMBY problem but neither a traffic source or an opportunity for ‘transit synergy’ PUDs or whatever.

There is no place anywhere near Nassau St. that you could ever put a loop to turn the kind of cars you are describing, and traffic at that ‘end’ where 206 goes north is one of the very last places it would make sense to run anything long that has to stop.

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 10:48 PM

I submit to your greater knowledge of the current situation. My last visit to Princeton was about 25 years ago.  The new Administration Building makes my scheme completely impractical, and the traffic situation is certainly different than what I remember.

Do you think the present situation is viable?  Will it continue indefinitely?  Or will NJT decide some time in the future that it would be a lot less expensive to provide the service with a bus?  Or even two articulated 180-passenger (most standing) buses?

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, October 26, 2017 12:30 AM

I submit to your greater knowledge of the current situation. My last visit to Princeton was about 25 years ago.  The new Administration Building makes my scheme completely impractical, and the traffic situation is certainly different than what I remember.

Do you think the present situation is viable?  Will it continue indefinitely?  Or will NJT decide some time in the future that it would be a lot less expensive to provide the service with a bus?  Or even two articulated 180-passenger (most standing) buses?

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, October 27, 2017 2:59 PM

My personal opinion is actually that having a brand-new station is worlds better than that old collapsing disaster (which is now a fancy eatery, a much better use of the architecture!)  and it is not at all that much further away from anything meaningful in Princeton than the old one was, with MUCH better access and parking.  It is also not at all optimized for a 'busway' conversion, even if all the conveniences didn't add toward retaining a simple married pair of costed-down MU cars for the service, operating truly bidirectional with only a short walk through the car to reverse.

The only thing I might expect to see, in the longer term (and it would be much longer than the next few years) would be the substitution of diesel railcars of some sort.  And that's less likely because of the Continental platforms, I believe now at both ends, that would have to be expensively modified to even approximate ADA compliance for, say, the River Line trainsets.

I can only imagine the fun in converting the existing route to a 'dedicated busway' because I was involved in a study considering that, around the time NJT was officially established.  The only advantage (and it was probably a real advantage) is that even artics could make the 'Nassau Street' loop or go to other places in Princeton or even the surrounding area to reduce kiss 'n ride commuting or permit access to offroute parking -- I specifically mentioned the old B&O post-'24 last-mile service and what it could have provided if run with some contemporary 'modern conveniences'.  This was right about the time of the order for the MCI tag-axle coaches, which would have been cramped and difficult to access compared to the Silverliners then in use, and the conversion of the crossing at Route 1 was not either pleasant or cheap to contemplate for non-railguided vehicles.  The need for a full turnaround at the Princeton Junction end could have been accommodated fairly easily, and in fact we used it as part of an architecture-school project, I think in 1976.

The thing that has really established the PJ&B as cost-effective is the built-up congestion in that area, going anywhere toward New York.  The trains run reasonably full mornings and afternoons, with a mix of students and commuters, and are of course timed 'to meet all the trains'; substituting a bus to run off peak up Alexander Road to a Nassau loop would be a reasonable thing, and perhaps is now being done, but it would never replace the Dinky as a railborne service, and conversion to busway would be hopelessly expensive for an incredibly limited (and basically perceived as affluent) regional clientele.

Now, it's something of a pity that one of the projects I was working on will never see the light of day now that congestion on the Corridor is so great -- remember when the SPV-2000s were failing in service and nobody had a cost-effective use for them?  I proposed, only tongue in cheek, to put 12.5kV capable motors via shaft drive to the outer axles, see if it could be adapted to haul some sort of trailers, redo the interiors entirely as parlor/bar cars, establish a subscription train club for Princeton-area commuters, and run the thing in trips all the way to New York and back -- stopping to pick up 'members' via flag stop both ways as needed.  The economics actually worked, in the late '70s at least, but the idea died when state transit authority support for 'elitist' services did (if I recall correctly this is what killed the various MTA bar cars and the ex-Lackawanna 'train club' after the re-electrification).  Everything being FRA compliant, and there being an excess of road-qualified passenger people still around at the time, it didn't interfere to a significant extent with Silverliner shuttle service on the same line... Wink

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Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, October 28, 2017 11:46 AM

Actually, just very relieved to know that PJ%B has a long-term future.  Glad I raised the issue, and thanks for a very thorough and informed answer.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, October 28, 2017 4:11 PM

How about acquiring a few (4?) of the numerous surviving MP54s, restore if necessary and use them for the Dinky as a nostalgia service?  The new/old Princeton Junction and Branch (Back).

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Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Saturday, October 28, 2017 5:29 PM

Monorail? Tube Train?

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, October 30, 2017 3:19 PM

charlie hebdo

How about acquiring a few (4?) of the numerous surviving MP54s, restore if necessary and use them for the Dinky as a nostalgia service?  The new/old Princeton Junction and Branch (Back).

Alas, there are far fewer of those around than you think.  Almost all of them are terminally rusty and probably beyond reasonable restoration to ‘transit agency’ operating or safety standards — they would also be pains to keep maintained and safe, and probably can’t be ferried on their own wheels to any conceivable maintenance facility — heaven knows they would’t safely move in what’s left of freight service.

The bigger problem is that, while I loved those red cars, no ordinary rider or commuter would stand them, even for a comparatively short ride.  As a nostalgia train FROM TIME TO TIME (the way the New York transit system runs its old cars) you’d have something, but at current prices it would cost far, far too much to re-create something normal riders would not appreciate.

Which is sad, because I’d love it.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, October 30, 2017 3:30 PM

CandOforprogress2
Monorail? Tube Train?

Kiddo, the whole route is about 2 miles long.  At least I didn’t hear ‘maglev’ or TACV...

There was, in fact, some discussion about monorail.  Even initial cost estimates killed the idea deader than a stone.  The only ‘advanced’ technology considered for the route was to use an express-geared bus to take advantage of the separated ROW which at the time was about everything south of Faculty Road.  Although it might have been fun to get a couple of Metroliners in place of Silverliners, once those had begun to be replaced or rebuilt...

(Ironically enough, this was the time the Transportation Program was heavily into the theory and practice of PRT; I never saw even a glimmer of a grant proposal to test out some of the ideas on a converted Princeton Branch...)

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Posted by RichEye on Saturday, November 04, 2017 1:05 PM

Recalling the old Dinky as it rocked and rolled into Princeton Junction at the PA Mainline. Amazing that the pantograph didn’t disengage from the overhead catenary. What a great ride. Sadly nothing ever remains the same- thanks Dave snd Charlie for the nostalgia run.

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Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Saturday, November 04, 2017 2:44 PM

Overmod
 
CandOforprogress2
Monorail? Tube Train?

 

Kiddo, the whole route is about 2 miles long.  At least I didn’t hear ‘maglev’ or TACV...

There was, in fact, some discussion about monorail.  Even initial cost estimates killed the idea deader than a stone.  The only ‘advanced’ technology considered for the route was to use an express-geared bus to take advantage of the separated ROW which at the time was about everything south of Faculty Road.  Although it might have been fun to get a couple of Metroliners in place of Silverliners, once those had begun to be replaced or rebuilt...

(Ironically enough, this was the time the Transportation Program was heavily into the theory and practice of PRT; I never saw even a glimmer of a grant proposal to test out some of the ideas on a converted Princeton Branch...)

 

I know a guy in Ohio who has a used monorail from a amusemnt park for sale with 8 train sets.

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