New Dinky to Nassau Street

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

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Rodney Fisk
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Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:30 pm

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Rodney Fisk » Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:10 pm

Several new posts to respond to:

1) The Cape May Seashore Line is (was) a rather pathetic, part-time tourist operation running ancient Budd cars, often with volunteer crews. That taxpayers coughed up over $5 million so some dude could ferry a few hundred passengers a week to a quaint Victorian village is unexplainable. Any legislator voting another dollar to this rathole should answer for it at the polls. My company has no interest whatsoever in any operation that can't cover operating costs with farebox revenue and indeed turn a nice profit providing a real service. In contrast, the Dinky collects nearly 1200 fares a day and has for many years; the number will only grow when converted to light rail. Nevertheless, thanks for the link.

2) Running the current Dinky as is, connecting with a new light rail line going wherever sounds like something worked out on the back of an envelope--with a crayon. Where's the hugely increased subsidy going to come from? NJ Transit's Princeton Branch siphons $3300 per day above the farebox from taxpayers; now add a completely new service with light rail, with several additional crews over lines to Hamilton and New Brunswick costing many millions to build for a market now handled by buses carrying only some 50 riders per day from Princeton to those destinations--350 total including intermediate stops. Utterly hare-brained. Let's have some ideas to improve service while reducing subsidy!

3) Hey, why not just increase trips with the existing NJ Transit operation? Afterall, the Arrow III could easily make five round trips an hour; and does each crew really need an 80-minute break--two hours on weekends--for a meal? The answer: the crew is limited to three round trips per hour by its contract, and the meal breaks are similarly mandated. Furthermore, the schedule is fixed, so if a train from New York is two minutes late, too bad. (The last time that happened to me, the Dinky returned in twenty minutes; it could have easily waited ten minutes for the late train and still returned for the next scheduled meet at PJ. The Dinky then pulled beyond the PJ station for twenty minutes' "crew service". What ever happened to "customer service"?) Taxpayers don't so much subsidize Dinky service as they subsidize the wretchedly indifferent and inefficient provision of that service.

4) Anyone who believes that the current Dinky would be cheaper than LRT must have done the calculations in the sand with a stick and then stuck his head in the hole made by that stick. The Dinky may run dark, but it also has a crew of two running two Arrow III's. Each crewmember costs the state about $96,000 a year including benefits; each Arrow III uses over $80,000 per year in propulsion power. (I thought NJ Transit was running a married pair. Actually they are running two double-ended units! When I asked the engineer why, the answer was in case one broke down, the equivalent of an $80,000 insurance premium to save an occasional hour retrieving the reserve vehicle parked at the Junction: lunacy on flanged wheels, the equivalent of flying an empty 747 behind a 747 in case the first one had to make an emergency landing.) As for "burdensome signals", the new Dinky will run just as dark as the old one: a single vehicle shuttling back and forth on an isolated line doesn't need any signals at all. How did you reach that erroneous conclusion?
Last edited by Rodney Fisk on Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lirr42
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Location: Montauk, NY (MP 115.8)

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by lirr42 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:59 am

Rodney Fisk wrote:Running the current Dinky as is, connecting with a new light rail line going wherever sounds like something worked out on the back of an envelope--with a crayon.
I worked that up on a napkin with a ballpoint pen--I'm not that uncivilized. ;-)
Rodney Fisk wrote:As for "burdensome signals", the new Dinky will run just as dark as the old one: a single vehicle shuttling back and forth doesn't need any signal at all. How did you reach that erroneous assumption?
Will the FTA let you run a new operation in dark territory? I'm sure with this whole PTC mandate on the horizon and many unfortunate stories of trains colliding the FTA isn't going to like you doing all this work with no signals... Plus I know the other Light Rails use their signals in conjunction with the traffic signals on the roads (timing, giving the train priority, safely matching up with turning lanes and crosswalk signs, etc.), how are you going to manage that with no signals?

EDM5970
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Location: NJ

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by EDM5970 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:15 am

Did I miss something here? Who is this FTA that lirr42 brings up? Yet another government agency?

Ken W2KB
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Location: Lebanon Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey & Tiverton, RI USA

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Ken W2KB » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:07 am

lirr42 wrote:
Rodney Fisk wrote:Running the current Dinky as is, connecting with a new light rail line going wherever sounds like something worked out on the back of an envelope--with a crayon.
I worked that up on a napkin with a ballpoint pen--I'm not that uncivilized. ;-)
Rodney Fisk wrote:As for "burdensome signals", the new Dinky will run just as dark as the old one: a single vehicle shuttling back and forth doesn't need any signal at all. How did you reach that erroneous assumption?
Will the FTA let you run a new operation in dark territory? I'm sure with this whole PTC mandate on the horizon and many unfortunate stories of trains colliding the FTA isn't going to like you doing all this work with no signals... Plus I know the other Light Rails use their signals in conjunction with the traffic signals on the roads (timing, giving the train priority, safely matching up with turning lanes and crosswalk signs, etc.), how are you going to manage that with no signals?
The FTA does not have regulatory authority does it? Only issues voluntary guidance, correct? It can only control by stipulations in grants as I understand the current law. So if no FTA financing, no regulation. Unlike FRA which is a regulatory body for the interstate rail network.
~Ken :: Fairmont ex-UP/MP C436 MT-14M1 ::
Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: [/url]

Ken W2KB
Posts: 5770
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:27 pm
Location: Lebanon Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey & Tiverton, RI USA

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Ken W2KB » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:10 am

EDM5970 wrote:Did I miss something here? Who is this FTA that lirr42 brings up? Yet another government agency?
US Dept of Transportation Federal Transit Administration.
~Ken :: Fairmont ex-UP/MP C436 MT-14M1 ::
Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: [/url]

lirr42
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Location: Montauk, NY (MP 115.8)

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by lirr42 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:26 am

Ken W2KB wrote:The FTA does not have regulatory authority does it? Only issues voluntary guidance, correct? It can only control by stipulations in grants as I understand the current law. So if no FTA financing, no regulation. Unlike FRA which is a regulatory body for the interstate rail network.
That sounds correct, only voluntary guidance. That kind of makes sense, I figured the FTA worked like the FRA regulating the non-railroad side of things.

25Hz
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by 25Hz » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:40 am

Again, additional round trips throughout the day i think would be a great thing. Light rail on this branch is a boondoggle. Any such millions should be directed to good state of repair projects.
Next stop the square, journal square station next!

Rodney Fisk
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Rodney Fisk » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:43 pm

What's going on here? How long would Wawa stay in business if it sold a drink for fifty cents that cost it a buck to deliver? Or is a public-sector transit monopoly somehow exempt from (at least) trying to cover costs with revenue?

Track signalling--and now PTC--is designed to avoid collisions between trains on the same track. Why would FTA require a capital expenditure of $30 million to signal the Princeton Branch when there is only one LRV going back and forth on a single track? Indeed, all grade crossings are protected by standard drop gates.

Let me clear up another misunderstanding: Although the new Dinky (Princeton Interurban LLC) will be 100% privately owned and operated, its capital costs will be 100% funded by FTA capital grant programs--similar to privately owned bus carriers in New Jersey, which get buses for $1 per year and operate on roads provided 100% by the public, since they pay no fuel taxes.

A light-rail Dinky as a "boondoggle"? The old Dinky has consumed some $20 million in arguably wasted public subsidy since it was taken over by NJ Transit; it continues to suck $1.2 million a year away from more valid uses of taxpayer funds, say schools or health care--or extended transit service.

For a real boondoggle, look to the RiverLINE. It has never raised its fares above its introductory half-fare level, and ridership is just now achieving the level predicted for six months after inauguration. The fare from Trenton to Camden is less than half the fare from Princeton to Princeton Junction on the Dinky! Who makes up the difference?

Private is not necessarily better than public, but competition is always better than monopoly.

Rodney Fisk
Posts: 61
Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:30 pm

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by Rodney Fisk » Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:14 pm

25 Hz: I agree that more round trips per day would be a good thing, but the only way for that to occur under NJ Transit operation--without renegotiating its union contract--would be for another crew to run two trips an hour, in addition to the three run by the first crew. That is the veritable definition of "boondoggle", paying for more workers to do something than logical or required. Please explain how you propose to add those extra trips. It may not be the only way, but I continue to argue that the best way is for another operator to replace NJ Transit and rationalize the service.

loufah
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by loufah » Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:05 am

Rodney Fisk wrote:Or is a public-sector transit monopoly somehow exempt from (at least) trying to cover costs with revenue?
They can try, but they'll never get full fare recovery except on certain routes with high ridership or high fares (like your Dinky route whose customers are millionaires or offspring of millionaires and are willing to pay several dollars for a 5 minute ride).

Public transit has three sets of customers:
- people who can't afford to drive a car
- people who are disabled and can't drive a car
- people who find it too inconvenient to drive a car or find transit to be faster

The first two sets are mainly people who are too poor to pay the full cost of transit, so it's subsidized. The third set gets the benefit of these subsidies because it's too hard to charge them the full cost (e.g. charging higher fares for PJ to NYP while keeping TRE-NYP fares low would probably not be feasible).

I am not denigrating your proposed service at all. I think it's brilliant that you can get the government to pay 100% of the capital costs and then let you keep all the profits, all the while improving service and value for the customers.

jbvb
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Location: Rockingham Co., NH

Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by jbvb » Fri Sep 07, 2012 12:44 pm

Are you considering any intermediate stops? An inexpensive platform at Rt. 1 would allow pedestrian access from neighboring office campuses. Something that allowed a connection with the buses on Rt. 1 would draw more ridership, but would also cost a lot more.

25Hz
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by 25Hz » Sun Sep 16, 2012 8:45 pm

Penns neck was just east of the route 1 bridge. Would be neat to see the stop there again for folks in that area. Maybe put a ped bridge next to the rail bridge for people on the opposite side of the highway.

I will say again. The shuttle as light rail is a non-starter. In fact, i think putting a siding somewhere to allow 2x single car operation would be awesome, especially for students & faculty and others going to and from the university. Not sure if full signaling would be needed for that though.
Next stop the square, journal square station next!

pumpers
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by pumpers » Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:36 am

Rodney Fisk wrote:
For a real boondoggle, look to the RiverLINE. It has never raised its fares above its introductory half-fare level, and ridership is just now achieving the level predicted for six months after inauguration. The fare from Trenton to Camden is less than half the fare from Princeton to Princeton Junction on the Dinky! Who makes up the difference?

Private is not necessarily better than public, but competition is always better than monopoly.
The Riverline might be highly subsidized, but I believe it is already a step in your direction. Its operation is contracted to a private operator, with personnel totally separate from regular NJT contracts, etc. I seem to recall some kind of fight about this in the beginining. Someone please correct me or fill in details. Who knows about HBLR, too? JS
I apologize if this has been discussed already earlier in the thread.

amtrakowitz
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by amtrakowitz » Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:40 pm

pumpers wrote:
Rodney Fisk wrote:For a real boondoggle, look to the RiverLINE. It has never raised its fares above its introductory half-fare level, and ridership is just now achieving the level predicted for six months after inauguration. The fare from Trenton to Camden is less than half the fare from Princeton to Princeton Junction on the Dinky! Who makes up the difference?

Private is not necessarily better than public, but competition is always better than monopoly.
The Riverline might be highly subsidized, but I believe it is already a step in your direction. Its operation is contracted to a private operator, with personnel totally separate from regular NJT contracts, etc. I seem to recall some kind of fight about this in the beginning. Someone please correct me or fill in details. Who knows about HBLR, too? JS
I apologize if this has been discussed already earlier in the thread.
HBLR was the first light rail operating under a "DBOM" (design-build-operate-maintain) contract in NJ. River Line is the second. On average, the capital costs of HBLR were about $107 million per mile, and given that most of HBLR is either at grade or built on existing railroad rights of way, I for one have yet to see any justification (the elevated segments between Hoboken and Newport Mall cannot have made costs jump that high, nor even filling in the cut by MLK Drive). River Line's capital costs averaged about $35 millon per mile (also mostly on existing right of way), not rising too much higher than the original estimates in spite of the Rancocas Creek bridge almost hitting the water during reconstruction. The DBOM contracts stipulate the low fares, IIRC. In spite of those fares being low, it is low fare recovery ratio that damages revenue more than the actual fare rate.

chuchubob
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Re: New Dinky to Nassau Street

Post by chuchubob » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:43 pm

amtrakowitz wrote:... in spite of the Rancocas Creek bridge almost hitting the water during reconstruction...
pretty darn close!

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