Northern Branch HBLR (was DMU proposal)

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Northern Branch HBLR (was DMU proposal)

Postby IRFCA_RRfan » Wed Jun 08, 2005 7:39 pm

Environmental planning for these options begun... anyone have any more details? The DMUs are a perennial item in all these "press releases".
NJT Plans Bergen Rail Line To Midtown

NJ Transit is planning passenger rail service along a freight line in Bergen County.

The Northern Branch line between Tenafly and North Bergen would eventually let commuters ride into midtown Manhattan once a new trans-Hudson tunnel is complete.

The agency's board of directors approved environmental and planning work today.

The Northern Branch would use existing freight tracks owned by CSX Transportation, and would include self-propelled diesel rail cars.

In its first phase, the cars would connect Northern Branch riders with the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system in North Bergen. The second phase calls for the Northern Branch to be linked to the new Trans-Hudson Express tunnel deep within the Palisades.
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NJ-ARP: Promise broken.

Postby Douglas John Bowen » Thu Jun 09, 2005 9:20 am

Yes. Here's one detail.

NJ-ARP believes New Jersey Transit has broken its promise to the Northern Valley, and particularly Tenafly. Both were promised (HB)LRT. Both are now being offered something "other" -- and, in NJ-ARP's view, both inferior and more tenuous.

The media have taken notice of our position, to some degree (but only superficially).

Expect to hear more from us on this in the days to come.
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Postby alewifebp » Thu Jun 09, 2005 10:42 pm

I'm glad to hear that NJ-ARP's response is in line with what I am thinking too. The line extension to Ridgefield and/or Tenafly was supposed to be the MOS-3 alighnment. Remember, it is supposedly called the HBLRT. Side note, when I filled out the survey for the HBLRT and it asked you what it was called and what you thought it should be called, under what I thought it should be called I put down HHLRT, emphasizing the Hudson only approach.

Unfortunately years ago when I heard of this project, I had that sinking feeling since the MOS-3 was not anywhere near being funded, that it would probably be scrapped, take 5,000 years to build, or be gutted in to something completely different. It sounded too good to be true that we would actually get something electric up in to Bergen.

And I personally feel that the towns along the proposed route would have been happy to have the LRT come in, making those towns like Tenafly, Ridgefield, Englewood in to sleeper communities of those people that work in JC (and not the coveted NYC market). It's a win for the state to be able to spur even more growth in JC, and a win for the towns that would see home prices increase over their already inflated levels, incresing town ratables.
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Re: NJ-ARP: Promise broken.

Postby Irish Chieftain » Thu Jun 09, 2005 11:02 pm

Douglas John Bowen wrote:NJ-ARP believes New Jersey Transit has broken its promise to the Northern Valley, and particularly Tenafly. Both were promised (HB)LRT. Both are now being offered something "other" -- and, in NJ-ARP's view, both inferior and more tenuous
Insofar as being a "connector" to the LRT line, yes, that is inferior. There remains an opportunity to restore Hoboken-Tenafly direct DMU service, but that's not being explored, is it...?

One disadvantage of HBLRT up the Northern (something shared with the River LINE) would be no bathrooms on a rather long rail ride. (Yes, the buses don't offer bathroom service, but comparable rail journeys on other lines, that have buses run parallel, do have restrooms on-board.)

Is the canard of the dual-mode DMU/EMU (supposedly providing the one-seat rail link between Tenafly and Midtown Manhattan) still being advertised? That'll see the light of day just like Jeff Warsh's trans-Newark Bay tunnel between Bayonne and Elizabeth, IMHO...
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NJ-ARP: 'Opportunity' overstated.

Postby Douglas John Bowen » Fri Jun 10, 2005 9:07 am

No doubt Irish Chieftain is correct in noting DMU service could link Tenafly and Hoboken -- physically.

But opposition from the FRA, New Jersey Transit, and -- not insignificantly -- the citizenry of Hoboken make such a valid alternative political roadkill at best.

Indeed, Irish Chieftain's idea, or a variant of it, was advanced during the 1980s by Hudson County citzens legend Ted Conrad, who participated on the Citizens Advisory Committee advancing Hudson County transit. Like NJ-ARP, Conrad despised "interim busway." Unlike NJ-ARP, he preferred DMU operations to LRT.

One supposes DMUs could terminate at Port Imperial to avoid (and punish?) Hoboken. And (again, physically), there's no real reason why LRT and DMUs couldn't co-exist in the Weehawken Tunnel (we're aware of the possible exhaust problems, but even still ... ).

But NJT isn't interested in this or any other intra-Jersey approach to the problem (or the markets it can so serve). It wants that oh-so-overtouted one-seat ride to New York. In NJ-ARP's view, that's even more daunting -- and perhaps even of far less potential worth -- than Irish Chieftain's option.
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NJ-ARP: Bergen partly to blame.

Postby Douglas John Bowen » Fri Jun 10, 2005 9:13 am

But before we pity the "victims" too much, NJ-ARP will step aside to note that HBLRT (or HHLRT, as we, too, often now say) is in its current predicament in part due to the complicity ... or cluelessness ... of Bergen County itself.

One can review and critique the various "commuter uprisings" over the decades for effectiveness and efficiency. But at least the riders, be they on the Coast Line or in Lackawanna land, did make a fuss. Bergen County denizens seem not to get it ... their current dismal transit options, their future dilemma(s), their overall transportation place (again, both physically and politically).

Told numerous other New Jersey locales have been promised a "one-seat ride" to Manhattan -- and some for as long as a decade or more -- Bergen County officials mostly shrug, or respond with glazed eyes. But Bergen, for whatever reason, remains at the bottom of the political transit pile.

The response, then, often is, "Well, we gotta take what we can." Or, "At least DMUs are half a loaf." It never occurs to Bergen County that these promises can be broken as easily as Hudson-Bergen-Light Rail Transit has been. It never occurs to the county that NJT is taking seven years to place sidings on the Pascack Valley Line, but says it'll build a straight-shot connector to the Northeast Corridor in, oh, a decade or so.

From NJ-ARP's view, kind of sad, actually. Still, we'll try our best to make things right.
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NJ-ARP: ... and some self-serving advertising.

Postby Douglas John Bowen » Fri Jun 10, 2005 9:22 am

Finally (for this three-fer round), apologies if we appear to quibble, but NJ-ARP isn't just "responding" to New Jersey Transit's alteration of plans for the Northern Branch. Through our government affairs director (lobbyist), we've been out on the point in this matter, trailing only Tenafly resident and rail maven Al Cafiero (and consulting closely with him on it, to boot).

We certainly forgive regular folks for not knowing that, because despite our best efforts NJT and NJDOT for months declined to address our concerns on Northern Branch issues. The media also ignored the issue.

That is, the issue was overlooked until after the June 8 NJT board meeting -- and our public objection, which the media finally noticed and logged. Suddenly, meetings galore are offered; they want to talk to us now to find out why we object. C'est la guerre.
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Postby trainhq » Fri Jun 10, 2005 11:47 am

I'm not sure why they couldn't run DMUs both ways. Since the DMUs have to be specially designed, the platforms could be fixed to match the light rail ones if need be, and the DMU heights adjusted to allow them to run under wire on the HBLRT. And they wouldn't necessarily have to be dual mode; I believe they could run straight diesel on HBLRT.

In reality, of course, that won't happen; they'll go straight to New York, at least to start. But physically, there's no reason why it couldn't happen some day; they could have a New York branch and connect the tracks to HBLRT, and run a branch down there too.
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Postby Jishnu » Fri Jun 10, 2005 12:59 pm

trainhq wrote: But physically, there's no reason why it couldn't happen some day; they could have a New York branch and connect the tracks to HBLRT, and run a branch down there too.


I don't believe one is allowed to mix FRA buff strength compliant equipment (DMU or DMU-EMU for access to NYP and HOB) with non-compliant equipment (HBLRT or DEMU on HBLRT) without time separation. This would make simultaneous operation of these two kinds of equipment on the same tracks of the Northern Branch impractical.
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Postby trainhq » Fri Jun 10, 2005 1:22 pm

That's probably true now; however, DMU's are not in widespread use yet. Remember, being able to withstand a freight train collision and having the same effect as one are entirely different matters. As their use grows, I think the possibility of mixed-mode operation may be raised here and elsewhere. I think the FTA and FRA may re-examine this possibility and come up with standards for LRT vehicles which would make them compatible with DMUs. Needless to say, that would require replacing or retro-fitting the HBLRT cars; on the whole, a pretty expensive proposition. Don't think it's going to happen any time soon.
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Postby Irish Chieftain » Fri Jun 10, 2005 1:31 pm

Doug Bowen wrote:One supposes DMUs could terminate at Port Imperial to avoid (and punish?) Hoboken
Well...I personally didn't have that in mind; I had in mind a restoration of Northern Branch service via the original route to Hoboken, but this time operating via the Bergen Arches instead of the old switchback to West End that made it unpopular when it was originally moved to Hoboken out of Erie Terminal. (I doubt that the roads division of NJDOT would approve of that notion.)

As for Port Imperial, that area used to be a rail terminal in and of itself, what with hosting the New York Central and New York, Ontario and Western at one time...but like the CNJ Terminal, I doubt that NJDOT would be restoring old waterfront terminals for FRA-rail trains...and besides, Weehawken is far from being a traditional terminus for the Northern Branch passenger service...
trainhq wrote:DMU's are not in widespread use yet
Instead of "yet", the correct term is "anymore", since the Budd RDC was indeed a DMU and it used to be pretty widespread indeed...
Last edited by Irish Chieftain on Fri Jun 10, 2005 8:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby MickD » Fri Jun 10, 2005 6:08 pm

Are these to be the the same DMUs used on the River Line or the ones tested on the Dinky & NYS&W? If they are the former wouldn't they be compatible with HBLR for a straight run through to Hoboken? I could see the North Bergen connection for initial service, but I can't see the patronage in the long run without a direct service to Hoboken, as for a downtown commuter this would mean 2 transfers that I'd think would get old quick. To my thinking, rebuilding the Arches would open future options (Lower Boonton if by a long shot it were ever reopened etc).
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Postby Irish Chieftain » Fri Jun 10, 2005 6:27 pm

Are these to be the the same DMUs used on The River Line or the ones tested on the Dinky & NYSW
The ones on the Dinky and Susie-Q. The River LINE doesn't use DMUs; they use DLRVs.
If they are the former wouldn't they be compatible with HBLR for a straight run through to Hoboken?
They aren't the former, but the latter. The River LINE DLRVs couldn't run on the HBLRT to Hoboken, because there would be no ventilation in the Weehawken Tunnel sufficient to clear out their exhaust fumes, for the station at Bergenline Avenue.
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Postby alewifebp » Fri Jun 10, 2005 7:26 pm

Irish Cheiftain certainly makes a good point about the RDC's. The fabled Budd RDC's were certainly in wide use, in fact to my own hometowm of Maywood on the NYS&W up until the end of service along the route. So certainly bringing back DMU's would not be a new idea, but I guess the US in general has a bad taste in their mouths after the failed SPV's.

As far as a terminal down in Port Imperial is concerned, I don't think that can happen. Besides the cross use of the heavy and light rail that would be a chore to pass with the FRA, and the exhaust problem mentioned, I think the bigger problem will be that of real estate. The level of new construction in that area has been huge, and the addition of a rail terminal of any size would be considered and eyesore, costly to build, and would take away some extra ratables for the town.

And the direct NYC commute seems to me to be the bait, so that we will all get excited over the DIRECT service to NYC from Bergen and forget the HBLRT. Yay, NJT is so great, that sounds like such a better idea than going to JC or Hoboken. OK, NJT, let's do it. MOS-1 would be contained in NJ down to North Bergen. MOS-2 would be a connector in to the tunnels (assuming they are ever built in our lifetimes). Then NJT would come back and say, oh sorry, DMU's aren't allowed in the tunnels, or whatever excuse they want to use. Sorry indeed.

At least partially, I think one of the reasons that Bergen is complacant on this issue is that we at least do have very good bus service in to NYC. We can decry it all we want, but the bus does offer a better door to door option (traffic not included), without having to commute by car to a rail station (which could take 15-30 minutes in of itself in some areas of Bergen), a one seat ride, and in many cases, more frequent service.
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Postby Nasadowsk » Fri Jun 10, 2005 8:13 pm

<i>They aren't the former, but the latter. The River LINE DLRVs couldn't run on the HBLRT to Hoboken, because there would be no ventilation in the Weehawken Tunnel sufficient to clear out their exhaust fumes, for the station at Bergenline Avenue.</i>

You mean the 6 or 7 200+HP fans in there aren't gonna do it? And they can inlet or outlet, and route the air around in a few interesting ways too. With the high ceiling in the tunnel, and fans all over, venting out a a GTW 2/6 or like car's fumes would be a non event, and in any case, they're a boatload cleaner than the stuff EMD and GE sell, given they have to meet actual emissions standards over in Europe.
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