New Dinky to Nassau Street

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

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loufah
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by loufah » Wed Jul 04, 2012 9:56 am

Rodney Fisk wrote:Farebox recovery ratio would be above 110%. How? By specifying equipment best suited to the service, operated by a rational crew paid market wages, rather than high-cost, over-sized equipment, operated by a traditional crew paid negotiated wages.
As long as this proposal is getting rid of the historical Dinky, was BRT considered? Propulsion costs might be higher than LRV, but driver wages, the major cost, will likely be much less, since you can hire basically anyone with a driver license.

M&Eman
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by M&Eman » Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:51 pm

loufah wrote:
Rodney Fisk wrote:Farebox recovery ratio would be above 110%. How? By specifying equipment best suited to the service, operated by a rational crew paid market wages, rather than high-cost, over-sized equipment, operated by a traditional crew paid negotiated wages.
As long as this proposal is getting rid of the historical Dinky, was BRT considered? Propulsion costs might be higher than LRV, but driver wages, the major cost, will likely be much less, since you can hire basically anyone with a driver license.
Driver costs are not an issue with light rail. They aren't full-fledged engineers, but simply transit employees, just like bus drivers or subway motormen. The amount of time/cost it takes to train an employee on a trolley or LRV is similar to the amount of time it takes to get a new hire the correct class license they need to operate a bus legally and safely.
"The Erie only sells 1 way tickets on the NJ&NY because it only has a 99 year lease on the line."

EDM5970
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by EDM5970 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:06 pm

I proposed a system change and addition a year or so ago, and had a letter to the editor published in the Times. In a nutshell, it involved replacing the Arrows with some newer high platform cars, lighter in weight and designed for one-person operation. The cars would run on the existing 11 kV AC; such equipment is available in Europe.

For feeder routes, instead of adding to Princeton's already horrible traffic issues by ripping up the streets (as was proposed by others then-) and putting down trolley tracks, I suggested electric busses. Run them during the day, recharge them at the central depot at night-

This plan could be done with minimal infrastructure changes and not much more than the the cost of the new equipment. For some reason, perhaps because it wasn't a case of re-inventing the wheel, apparently no one took my ideas seriously.

SouthernRailway
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by SouthernRailway » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:49 pm

I'm all for private operators running passenger rail, but I'm confused on the numbers: the article in the Daily Princetonian states that the Dinky costs the state $8,000 per day (over $2.8 million), but one of the posts in this thread says that the loss is $1.2 million per year.

Which is is?

One of the light-rail trains used in Charlotte, NC on the LYNX Blue Line is I believe built by Siemens and is pretty quick and comfortable; it might be a good one for this.

bfh
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by bfh » Thu Jul 05, 2012 11:25 pm

Another version of the numbers (from http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/07/13/28643/ ):
The annual operating cost of the Dinky’s service to Princeton Station is $1.8 million, Clark explained. Dinky fares bring in an annual $977,000 in revenue, and the serves serves a little over 1,000 passengers every weekday. However, ridership has remained relatively flat since 2001 while other modes of transportation have seen tremendous growth.

NJ Transit Senior Director John Leon pointed out that the organization’s subsidy of the Dinky service was around 50 percent, while the subsidy on most of NJ Transit’s lines is less than 50 percent.

Hawaiitiki
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Hawaiitiki » Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:20 am

Ok I've been trying to piece together what people have been saying here into some sort of rational thought. From what I've gathered, this proposal suggests running an LRV under power from PJ to Princton Station, then using power stored in onboard batteries, travel to downtown Princeton. And the gentleman's original proposal involved powering the LRVs between PJ and Princeton using solar power from some "to-be-named" solar collection facility? Is this right? Has any of this specifically ever been done before?

I honestly hope this sort of public-private initiative takes off because New Jersey is full of areas(New Brunswick/Piscataway, Elizabeth, Paterson, Atlantic City/Wildwood,...etc) that would be well served by small-medium sized Light Rail/Streetcar systems, and hopefully something like this can serve as a catalyst. I believe New Jersey's population density could be very well served by a Karlsruhe model type transportation network, but with the current state of the FRA regulations, tram-train mixing is a big "no-no" and likely will be for the forseeable future. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlsruhe_model
Double Track, Grade Separate, and Electrify America!

Rodney Fisk
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Rodney Fisk » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:45 pm

Let me address a number of questions raised in this forum, which I hope will become the primary place for Dinky-related discussion, as well as on lesser Dinky forums or those with a more specialized focus.

Loufah asked about our business plan: It runs to about a hundred pages and is proprietary at this stage, but I can address certain questions. Indeed, the total conversion will cost "millions", but perhaps fewer of them than you might imagine. The total capital plan includes railcar and spare, conversion of power supply from 11kV AC to 750V DC (3 substations), maintenance facility, extension of track to Nassau Street (0.6 mile), new station in town, fare-collection system, etc. Projected total: under $15 million. The cost to the university of the new station at the new Arts Campus and related improvements will exceed $3 million, more than enough for the mandated 20% local match to fund the additional capital costs through an unusual mechanism we devised and had approved by FTA for an earlier venture. The primary requirement is that we seek no operating subsidy, and we won't. (Hard as it is to believe, the new Dinky will turn a profit, a singular accomplishment.)

Converting the Dinky to BRT was indeed evaluated by NJ Transit and determined to be the "locally preferred alternative"--until 200 people showed up at a public hearing to declare their preference actually was for the Dinky to remain a rail link, and it will.

As for using Karlsruhe-type, high-voltage trams, they're very expensive and can't operate on stored power, to say nothing of the problems of having an 11kV OHL buzzing 15 feet from dorm windows on the extended route. As for laying new track, we propose introducing a new in-street track system to this country. It requires no more infrastructure disruption than cutting two 8"x8" channels into the pavement. The new Siemens and Bombardier streetcars are beautiful, technologically complicated and very expensive--to purchase, maintain and propel. Our designated LRV reflects Einstein's adage: "as simple as possible, but no simpler". (Plus it's faster by 10 mph and uses 40% less electricity.)

Now let's clear up the confusion about Dinky operating costs. When NJ Transit was trying to show how great BRT was in its lamentable study, it wanted to make the Dinky look as costly as possible, so it used fully allocated costs, including 100+% overhead; total of $2.8 million. When trying to show that the Dinky was just about as efficient as other operations, it used more realistic avoidable costs; reduced total of $1.8 million.

Remember that solar power for traction--yes, it would have been a first--is no longer part of the proposal; hardly "as simple as possible".

Finally as to crew: we believe we will be able to recruit highly motivated drivers at $20 per hour, 50% fringe.

Hawaiitiki
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Hawaiitiki » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:18 pm

Thanks for all of the information Mr. Fisk, but I still have one question. Is there any sort of precedent for this anywhere on Earth? I totally understand that for progress to occur, someone has to going against the norm and break the seal, but I just see this being an extremely hard sell without real world tested technology. I, for one, am on your side, but Princeton NIMBYs likely arent as rail-friendly.
Double Track, Grade Separate, and Electrify America!

Rodney Fisk
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Rodney Fisk » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:40 pm

When I first proposed this concept some years ago, there was no where else on Earth I could point to. Now there are privately operated branches all over Europe and elsewhere, plus whole systems such as BR and JNR. Princeton is very devoted to its Dinky and there is much support for its rational extension into town (where the station was 90 years ago). Indeed if the Dinky were put out for bid, several other groups would enter the competition.

The key to our ability to provide service at lowest reasonable cost is the particular LRV we have chosen. It has passed the prototype stage and is now in demonstration operation. We would hope to introduce it into service in the U.S.

Ken W2KB
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Ken W2KB » Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:55 pm

Rodney Fisk wrote:When I first proposed this concept some years ago, there was no where else on Earth I could point to. Now there are privately operated branches all over Europe and elsewhere, plus whole systems such as BR and JNR. Princeton is very devoted to its Dinky and there is much support for its rational extension into town (where the station was 90 years ago). Indeed if the Dinky were put out for bid, several other groups would enter the competition.

The key to our ability to provide service at lowest reasonable cost is the particular LRV we have chosen. It has passed the prototype stage and is now in demonstration operation. We would hope to introduce it into service in the U.S.
Additional comment: >11kV AC to 750V DC (3 substations)<

Would you not purchase power via PSE&G? Don't have the immediate info, but PSE&G distribution primary is generally 4kV in older systems, and either 13kV or 26kV in newer. Not 11kV. If you are planning on purchasing power from Amtrak, that could lead to legal/regulatory issues for Amtrak as a seller, plus the 25Hz AC input to the rectifier might be more costly to build the substations as it would be one of a kind. Amtrak's grid is mostly linear and less reliable than a typical utility grid. Do you really need 3 substations on such a short operation? Two I would think would be plenty, with the ability to run off of one while the other is offline for maintenance.

These suggestions might shave a bit more off the cost. Again, best of luck in getting this done!
~Ken :: Fairmont ex-UP/MP C436 MT-14M1 ::
Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: [/url]

Rodney Fisk
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Rodney Fisk » Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:35 pm

Wasn't thinking when I wrote 11kV. Of course, we'll draw power from PSE&G at 13kV 60Hz. Our EE recommended 3 substations; we'll really be running our unit at its limit, so we want to minimize voltage drop.

SouthernRailway
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by SouthernRailway » Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:58 pm

Re: BRT vs. Dinky costs: regardless of how NJT calculated the costs of the Dinky to make it look bad vs. bus rapid transit, I have found that BRT is much cheaper than rail, at least when I served on a local commission that tried to decide between BRT and light rail for a mid-length corridor. BRT was chosen for the project because BRT was so much cheaper. The main benefit of rail is that it would attract people who wouldn't take a bus--not that rail was cost-competitive.

And if other groups would bid on the Dinky, why not let them? That would save $15 million in conversion costs.

I would be curious for more numbers that would show that a LRT Dinky would be profitable. Would costs come down by 25%, and would ridership go up by 50%? With stable fares, something like that would have to happen.

Rodney Fisk
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Rodney Fisk » Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:34 pm

NJ Transit's BRT study showed a cost of $42 million to double-track the Dinky vs. $17 million to remove the track and pave it over. The reason LRT was cheaper than BRT in Princeton was based on the infrastructure already in place. No one argues that LRT requires a lower capital investment than BRT when a paved right-of-way is the starting basis for both. I do argue, however, that converting to light rail is cheaper than continuing with the current heavy rail operation. Since NJ Transit took over the Dinky in 1983, the shuttle to Princeton Junction has consumed some $30 million in public subsidy. The farebox recovery ratio has actually improved since the ticket agent was replaced by a machine and the crew no longer includes a trainman in addition to a conductor. Still, for every dollar a ticket costs, taxpayers chip in another dollar. With a light-rail new Dinky, that subsidy stream would end.

It would be impossible for a private operator to take over the Dinky and operate it as is without virtually the same subsidy as NJ Transit requires, owing to NJ Transit's labor contracts, the high cost of maintaining the Arrow III's plus their huge consumption of electric power--nine times as much as light rail. Other potential bidders' capital plans for their concepts would seem to be rather higher than mine.

As for the numbers, labor costs would be reduced by 75%, propulsion cost by 90%, MOE by 75%, MOW by 80%, etc. Fares would not be stable: the simple one-way fare would be reduced from $2.75 to $2.00. However, the cost per ride on multi-ride tickets would be no lower than $1.80. Commuters with monthly tickets would no longer ride the Dinky for $0.55. Service would be increased from three to five round trips an hour and be extended later into the night. Revenue is projected to rise modestly. The bottom line shows a profit. Convinced?

EDM5970
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by EDM5970 » Mon Jul 09, 2012 7:52 pm

Going back to Mr. Fisk's comments posted at 1:45 on Friday afternoon: he mentions cutting a pair of 8" by 8" channels in the pavement. I would imagine they are for the running rails? Just how are they going to be kept in gauge without cross ties or some other securement? Is the asphalt or concrete going to hold the gauge? I've seen gauge altered at a grade crossing by heavy truck traffic, and that was on conventional track with ties underneath the crossing. I'm not a track guru, but I have done my share of tie replacement over the last forty years, and I can't see this working.

loufah
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by loufah » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:51 am

Thanks for the additional info, Mr. Fisk. I was interested in just a couple of details:
- how much taxpayer money is involved (you said "all funding would be federal" - does this mean ~ $15M?)
- how much of this money is being paid to Princeton U and Princeton Township and Borough for property purchases?
- The $15 M development costs will be recouped rather slowly, I think, if the existing $1M/year revenue will rise only "modestly" and you have an expectation of making a profit; do the development costs not need to be paid back?
- Who will wind up owning the ROW?

Thanks and best of luck. If this works out, it could be a model for more short-haul transit systems that are being held back by government lethargy.

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