Northern Branch HBLR (was DMU proposal)

Discussion related to New Jersey Transit rail and light rail operations.

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Douglas John Bowen
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NJ-ARP: 'Theoretical' New York access vs. New Jersey needs.

Post by Douglas John Bowen » Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:34 pm

It appears NJ-ARP has a tough schedule on its hands, because even among skeptics and detractors of the NJ Transit Northern Branch DMU proposal, the focus that garners the most attention (or imagination?) appears to be access to Midtown Manhattan.

Meaning no disrespect to those indulging in speculation, NJ-ARP nonetheless argues that the Northern Branch must (also) address New Jersey needs, and that (therefore) HBLRT is the best choice for such matters.

Irish Chieftain at least explores the idea of getting from Tenafly to Hoboken via an alternate route (which NJ-ARP itself didn't immediately grasp). Others on this thread, however, theoretically seem to buy NJ Transit's overall desire to get to New York, no matter how or what.

Again, NJ-ARP submits that such a "New York commuter" orientation is limiting, and extremely shortsighted.


Post by JoeG » Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:51 pm

Mr Bowen--
I understand your position. My question is, since we are going to need new cars for the Northern Valley in any case, why not use FRA compliant LRV cars that could run on HBLRT, but that could also run to New York if and when? Just as you want New Jersey residents to have lots of transportation alternatives and not be limited to ny-centric commuting, I don't want to have cars that can only run on HBLRT.

Douglas John Bowen
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NJ-ARP: FRA hurdle is a big one.

Post by Douglas John Bowen » Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:58 pm

We understand the desire for "seamless" rail transportation, and share that desire with most.

The Federal Railroad Administration, however, has its own ideas of what's right and proper. NJ-ARP has actually taken on the FRA on this margin and that. But we can't and won't claim we can slay the dragon.

As noted, Colorado Railcar representatives seem to believe the company can provide various permutations of equipment. Dual-mode LRT. Dual-mode MUs. DLRT complaint with FRA safety requirements.

Can the company (be expected to) provide the do-it-all version -- a dual-mode "light-rail-type" vehicle that somehow meets FRA safety standards (and those of CSX)? And even if it can, would current HBLRT equipment be allowed near such a beast?

But again, that's a lot of faith to administer. Here's another article of faith to consider: NJ Transit's ability -- physically and politically -- to truly offer a "one-seat ride" to Midtown Manhattan for Northern Branch rail riders.

NJ-ARP argues that such faith requires one to totally ignore NJ Transit's record on nearby projects of far less daunting consequence and scope -- say, passing sidings on the Pascack Valley Line, which at best will be put in place seven years after the initial target deadline.


Post by JoeG » Wed Jun 15, 2005 2:12 pm

I am still lost about why dual mode anything on the Northern Valley. I thought NJ-ARP wanted electric traction on the Northern Valley. Dual mode is problematic. Why not single-mode electric, that can run on hblrt and that is fra compliant? I assume it would weigh more and cost more than the current HBLRT cars, but it would be more versatile. Is the problem that FRA compliant cars couldn't run on HBLRT for some technical reason that I'm unaware of, or that no vendor is willing to make FRA compliant electric light rail vehicles, or that they would just cost too much?

Douglas John Bowen
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NJ-ARP: OK, we'll try again.

Post by Douglas John Bowen » Wed Jun 15, 2005 2:23 pm

Excellent query by Joe G. As it happens, such a potential electric railcar, compliant with FRA specs for "heavy" running but yet acceptable for LRT operation, is one of the permutations not considered so far by Colorado Railcar (or, at least, not discussed with NJ-ARP).

One reason might be the different power requirements required for such a vehicle even if it were "all electric." Power on the Northeast Corridor differs from that on HBLRT, and other folks here more qualified than we are on electricity can run that comparison down.

So the short answer by NJ-ARP is: We honestly don't know. It seems unlikely. But perhaps someone can gainsay us on this matter.

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Post by Nasadowsk » Wed Jun 15, 2005 5:56 pm

Dual system (Kv electric, 600V DC) LRVs have existed in Europe for a few years now. And by LRV I mean actual light rail vehicles, not regular UIC compliant low floor trains like the Riverline cars. They mix with the regular rail system, though the regulatory authorites weren't too estatic about the idea at first.

Big issue is stuffing the main transformer/converter somewhere, though if the weight's low enough, you're talking only a few hundred KVa.

Ironically, Septa proposed this for the SVM project and everyone said it couldn't work (and at the time, they had a point - there were few cars of the type in operation anywhere), even though it's an every day reality overseas now.

The big issue is FRA specs - low floor cars are hard to make *UIC* compliant, and still be light enough. In fact, most low floor equipment is on the high end of the weight scale in Europe, and builders are getting really creative at trying to get the weight down.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with UIC compliant railcars, except for the FRA , but technically they're just fine.

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Post by alewifebp » Wed Jun 15, 2005 9:58 pm

I've always thought that the originally proposed HBLRT routing in to Hoboken, JC and Bayonne would have been a great routing. I've said it before, that the prospect of actually being able to run from Bergen County to Hudson County on a light rail vehicle is wonderful. Connecting the suburban with the urban, just not the urban that we are used to (NYC), would be a great boon for both Bergen AND Hudson, AND the state.

Just going by precedence here in NJ so far, the River LINE works on a waiver with freight, and limits its times so that freight can travel on the line at night, commuter service during the day. HBLRT runs on a dedicated ROW. Based on this precedence, I don't see how we would be able to run a dual mode (or River LINE like) LRV style vehicle with freight traffic at the same time (as Mr Bowen asserts). Nor with commuter traffic for that matter, making the prospect of LRV in to NYC, or DMU/EMU running down the HBLRT ROW a non-starter.

I believe that really on leaves three options. The first is the original MOS-3 alignment up to at least Ridgefield, if not all the way to Tenafly, which I support. Or, DMU service that would probably have to go to Hoboken, stopping at SJ for NYC commuters. Given that option, NJT would probably just go with push-pull, though. Or the NJT back-tread on the issue, running DMU's down to a LRT terminal, with the never gonna happen in our lifetime prospect of hopeful NYC service.

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Post by acs85 » Fri Jun 17, 2005 10:09 pm

There's another reason the NJT provided in using diesel service on the Northern Branch as opposed to electric – it's only half the price. While electrified service would get 2× as many passengers, and logistically makes far more sense, in case some have forgotten, both NJT & the state of NJ are flat broke. In the 6/9/05 Star Ledger, they casually mentioned that "transportation officials have not yet determined where they would get the money for the new rail line; the state trust fund that pays for big projects runs out of money next year."

And this should give some pause:
  • "Former Assemblyman Frank Herbert, who authorized the law creating NJ Transit, chided the legislators who spoke out yesterday in support of the new rail project in Bergen County without suggesting a way to solve the funding crisis.

    Herbert said state elected officials recently have been showing "lots of profile and no courage."
I say that if Bergen Co. wants light rail, they ought to enact some kind of special property or sales tax to pay the added cost of electrification - there's a reasonable chance that rising probert values & commerce would more than make up for the higher taxes. But basically, find the $$ or stop complaining.


Post by Lackawanna484 » Fri Jun 17, 2005 10:28 pm

If they had put a similar tax on Montclair properties, NJT would be rolling in dough now. Doubles and triples since 1990 are the norm, and some five baggers.

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Post by acs85 » Fri Jun 17, 2005 10:44 pm

Hahahahaha! That's so true. I didn't even think of that. Maybe if we did that, maybe NJTransit could recoup the costs of the River LINE some time this century.

But seriously – the MTA gets revenue from a real estate transfer tax & sales tax, & the DC Metro also has special taxes, and they aren't the only ones. I think that a small, but dedicated property tax, & maybe a ½-cent sales tax, beginning in the areas where service is expanding (after all, I live in Metuchen, & there might not have been a fare increase had it not been for Montclair, Secaucus, & the wasteful yet convenient River LINE).

Having communites that want expanded service subsidize it would a.) put trains where people really want them b.) make sure that the rest of the state doesn't suffer as much due to very unprofitable lines and c.) help solve NJT's perpetual funding problems.

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Post by ryanov » Fri Jun 17, 2005 10:52 pm

That is as bad of an idea as having states fund Amtrak. I don't live in Tenafly, yet support train service there. Spread the burden around the state and it's less money for everyone.
|=| R. Novosielski |=|


Post by JoeG » Sat Jun 18, 2005 7:39 am

Having property taxes fund stuff is a big problem. Christie Whitman made the problem worse by cutting income taxes and state aid, thereby making localities have to raise property taxes to make up the shortfall. More equitable than funding transportation with property taxes is raising the income tax and the gas tax. Will politicians step up and raise these taxes? I read somewhere that the governor was proposing a gas tax increase.


Post by Lackawanna484 » Sat Jun 18, 2005 11:19 am

The (acting) governor is reluctant to propose a gas tax inccrease. It would likely be used to club his party at election time.

My guess is he cuts off authorization for new projects (highway and rail) and rattles the construction unions. The newspapers jump on accidents caused by bridges, etc that would have been fixed, huge delays, etc. The unions, newspapers, construction companies, commuter rail groups, etc create a huge ruckus about fixing the problem.

Then the legislature votes a "special" one year only tax increase that never quite goes away. Like the Parkway tolls for a road built in 1952...

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DMU on Northern RR of NJ

Post by DocJohn » Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:24 pm

Why does NJT want Tenafly to be northern terminus instead of going at least to Closter if not all the way to Northvale?


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Post by alewifebp » Sun Jun 19, 2005 12:07 am

Tenafly is a natural northern endpoint, because the densities of population (and I might add, the population of potential commuters) drop off after Tenafly. Above Tenafly, you also start going through some very rich towns in the state (basically Alpine next, which is one of the richest).

Now, if, and this is another big if, the new Tappan Zee is built ever, it would contain possibly a light rail tunnel in to the eastern side of the Hudson. Extending the LRT to Rockland then stars to make a lot of sense, but that would be so many years off, that our great great great grandkids might see it.

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