• Northern Branch HBLR (was DMU proposal)

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

Moderators: lensovet, nick11a, Kaback9

  by alewifebp
And I've argued several times that what NJ should be doing is promoting its own assets, namely Jersey City, Hoboken, and Bayonne, and to a lesser extent, North Bergen. This of course takes the mythical one-seat ride out the equation, or at least makes it a one-seater to the cities of NJ. I can only imagine the Tenafly Flyer making its way to JC, and yes, Port Imperial.

And I'm not too sure on the specifics, but is a dual mode loco between 12.5/25 and diesel even in existence?

I think it is very clear, even if it is slow building, vis-a-vis, ridership growth, that the HBLRT extended north would do very well. One only has to look at the RiverLINE to see that even when you don't go anywhere "important" (ie, not Philadelphia) that it can still be popular, and spur growth.

  by The Rising
Hello all,

I've enjoyed reading the comments posted here and the very well made arguements both for and against the various options. To that end, if I hadn't made myself clear, I do support the extension of the HBLR up the Northern branch as the preferred option for that corridor.

I do have a question for Mr. Bowen. I'm not sure what you went by the statement that the PVL is NJ Transit's last true commuter rail line. Could you clarify that statement for me? Forgive me for questioning you on this, but it is my understanding that the Federal Transit Administration classifies rail transit systems in the United States into one of three categories.

For the benefit of the others here at Railroad.net, here are my understandings have how transit systems throughout the United States are grouped. If I'm wrong about any of these, please post your corrections.

Commuter Rail:

I was lead to believe that all traditional fixed commuter rail services over rail lines which are part of the national railroad network fall under this category. These services come under the direct control of most federal regulatory agencies (STB, FRA, DOT and others)

History: Most of these lines where developed under the General System of Steam Railroads. Most of these systems serve to connect the local surburban communities to a major city nearby. Most employees of commuter rail lines fall under the umbrellas of the Railroad Labor Act and the Railroad Retirement Board.

Service levels: The usual type of service offered over these lines are regularly scheduled service five plus days per week (M-F,Sat,Sun). Train schedules vary with each line depending on the need. Usually, there is a concentration of trains during Rush Hour, with offpeak service tailored to the needs of the line. Weekend service may be including on lines justifying that level of service

Examples of Commuter rail systems:

In New York City alone:
NJ Transit Rail Operations
MTA Long Island Railroad
MTA Metro North Railroad

In Philadelphia:
All Septa Regional Rail operations.

In Chicago:
All Metra commuter rail operations

In Los Angeles:
The Metrolink commuter rail network

Heavy Rail:

My understanding of the concept of heavy rail would be akin to the current major electrified mass transit systems which are not part of the national rail network. Many of these systems usually have a portion of their respective systems underground.These systems usually do not come under the direct control of most federal regulatory agencies. The employees of heavy rail systems also do not fall under the umbrellas of the Railroad Labor Act nor the Railroad Retirement Board.

History: Most of these systems were developed under the General System of Electric Railways. The first systems of this kind were developed in New York and Boston. Most of these systems are usually contained within the entirety of a major metropolitan city or area.

Service levels: These systems, while looking very much like a major railroad network, are operated like true rapid transit systems, with frequent headways throughout the day. Headways usually close to within a few minutes of each other at rush hours.

Examples of Heavy Rail:

In New York City:
New York Subway

In San Fransisco:
Bay Area Rapid Transit

In Chicago:
ALl elevated lines

In Philadelphia:
Market Frankfort Line
Broad Street Subway

Light Rail:

Finally, it is my understanding that light rail is the final category of mass transit system in the United States. Like their heavy rail counterparts, light rail systems are not part of the national rail network. Their cost of construction is usually less than either commuter or heavy rail. Vehicles and track structures are also usually less than the other two categories.

History: Today's light rail networks are in reality the 21st century equivalent of the old fashion trolley's developed under the General System of Electric Railways. This group would have included both Street car systems, interurban lines, and cable cars.

Services levels: Like their heavy rail counterparts, these systems are operated like true rapid transit systems, with frequent headways throughout the day. Headways usually close to within a few minutes of each other at rush hours.

Examples of Light Rail networks:

In New Jersey:
Newark City Subway
Hudson Bergen Light Rail

In Pittsburgh:
The PATCo lines south of Pittsburgh

In Dallas:
The DART lines radiating from downtown Dallas

In Portland:
The Portland light rail system

In San Diego:
The San Diego Trolley system

The above is my understand of how all transit systems in the US are categorized. With regards to this discussion about the Hudson Bergen lines, the question I'm wondering is if the issue has become a commuter rail line vs. light rail line question. The spirit of the debate seems to indicate that the change in direction from NJ Transit might be a struggle to determine which form to chose.

Well, that's all for now folks.

See ya all later.

  by pgengler
The Rising wrote:I do have a question for Mr. Bowen. I'm not sure what you went by the statement that the PVL is NJ Transit's last true commuter rail line. Could you clarify that statement for me? Forgive me for questioning you on this, but it is my understanding that the Federal Transit Administration classifies rail transit systems in the United States into one of three categories.
It's my understanding that the PVL is considered by many as a commuter line based on the way it operates. As opposed to the other lines on your list of which I am aware, they may be geared primarily toward 9-5 commuters, but they also offer other service during off-peak times and in off-peak directions, and on weekends. The PVL operates single-direction into Hoboken in the AM, and single-direction in the PM from Hoboken, with no weekend or bi-directional service. In that regard, it's generally only useful for those people along the line who are commuting to work in/around New York City.
  by Douglas John Bowen
Pgengler correctly interprets NJ-ARP's take on "commuter" railroading.

We truly appreciate The Rising's extensive rundown of terminology, mostly as provided by the Feds. That doesn't change NJ-ARP's disdain for those same Feds in too many matters related to rail.

That disdain certainly applies to the overused term "commuter" which, in NJ-ARP's experience, hinders and hampers the advancement of passenger railroading of many stripes, be it LRT, "heavy" (or subway) lines, or regional or state rail systems (such as NJT's).

We acknowledge that we don't yet have a perfect alternative for "commuter," though "regional" at least comes close. That doesn't change the political fact that "commuter" is a liability and a misnomer.

To that end, NJ-ARP affirms Pgengler's take on the Pascack Valley Line. It goes in during the morning rush hours. It comes out during the evening rush hours. It has abysmal off-peak service -- better than it was, but still really lacking. And it doesn't run at all on weekends.

Since NJ-ARP represents the interests of railroad passengers, which includes but is not limited to commuters, this is not a desirable goal.

Is NJ-ARP parsing through niceties? Hardly. Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R-39), in attacking sidings for the Pascack Valley Line, nicely allowed as to how no one want to hurt "commuters." NJ-ARP's suggestion: Substitute the words "those people" every time one sees or reads the word "commuters." Because that's what often occurs: a segmentation, or separation, of some people who (one can infer) don't reflect the needs or values of the whole community.

Words matter. When's the last time anyone referred to the New Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway as a "commuter highway?" Commuters use those, right? But why is the Northeast Corridor, of all things, a "commuter line" and not just a rail route? Call it laziness or call it sinister; the definition puts us rail advocates at a disadvantage, and that's why NJ-ARP will object to such cavalier useage (unless it's appropriate, as it often is with the Pascack Valley Line).

We'll attempt to answer the "commuter" vs. "light" rail issue shortly.
  by Douglas John Bowen
The Rising essentially asks: Which market matters most for the Northern Valley in Bergen County? New York City -- or other places?

In essence, the answer chosen by any interested party drives the mode.

If one believes Midtown Manhattan is the only market that matters -- or, put more kindly, the only one that can easily and politically justify rail transit -- then the choice is clear. Light rail isn't going through the Hudson River Tunnels, and it isn't going through the Lincoln Tunnel(s), either. FRA-compliant rail is one's only rational rail option.

If one believes that numerous New Jersey origin/destination options can be tapped by rail transit, with Manhattan falling into a "secondary" (read that: transfer) access point, then light rail ascends. Granted, FRA-compliant rail could also address the Northern Valley needs on this score given a tabula rasa. But the slate isn't clean; HBLRT is already up, operating, and proving its worth right now.

It is NJ-ARP's belief that New Jersey Transit and, even more important, Bergen County officials, are more familiar with (or wedded to) the traditional suburban/urban dynamic of the 1950s -- send them in, then bring them home -- which lends itself to (yup, we'll use it here) "commuter" rail. As we've noted, Bergen County still sees itself as a traditional "suburb" in most respects, never mind the evolving reality.

LRT, sadly, remains unfamiliar to many transport decision-makers or, worse, seems a relic of an even more distant time than the 1950s, and therefore not relevant to today's needs. Since LRT has so many uses, ironically enough, it's often not sold nor advanced for its own "commuter" capabilities -- perhaps here, NJ-ARP has to fault itself for not hammering on this one niche out of the spectrum served by LRT.

But as NJ-ARP has proven with the River Line, LRT need not be "city-only" transport, and in fact offers the best range of options and uses for the Northern Branch. And unpublished study data strongly suggest NJT has inflated LRT's cost vis a vis DMU significantly, and has played down the ridership of LRT vs. DMU (though even in NJT's revised count, LRT wins -- NJT can't stretch those numbers too radically).

NJT can justifiably point to solid political support for its proposal, counting three U.S. House reps and Bergen County officialdom as ample evidence of the "voice of the people" in this matter. It can argue that the Northern Branch is a piece of a much larger puzzle, involving not just T.H.E. Tunnel but also one other DMU startup linking Hackensack and Hawthorne (which, as it happens, NJ-ARP supports).

Such positions, of course, bring the Northern Branch's pro-LRT faction (led by NJ-ARP) and its DMU believers (led at least nominally by NJT) into conflict.

Realizing we're one of the involved parties, we nonetheless hope we've provided some kind of objective overview of the situation.
Last edited by Douglas John Bowen on Thu Nov 10, 2005 10:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

  by alewifebp
Concerning the 12/25/diesel dual modes, that is what I thought, that none exist. And I really would not want NJT to be the test case for a brand new type of loco. I wonder if it would be just easier to third rail to Secaucus, and lease some Genesis dual modes.

But, given the density of the area, electrification all the way really does make the most sense in the long run.

  by Irish Chieftain
Thread is back by request.
  by manhattan exile
Thank you, IC, and thanks for the education re threads and forums.

Now please see the following notice for a upcoming open house regarding this topic:

2/22/2006: NJ Transit Open House on Northern Line Rail Service

Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney and New Jersey Transit will hold an open house on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 in Tenafly at the Clinton Inn to discuss plans to reactivate rail service along the Northern Branch. The public is invited to make comments.

Information on the project and community benefits will be available at the open house to be held in the Parkview Room of the Clinton Inn at 145 Dean Drive in Tenafly. (201-871-3200)

Northern Branch project staff will be available to talk with the public from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

For additional information, contact Charles Ingoglia, NJ Transit, at 973-493-8684 or email [email protected].

  by wantsrail
Diesel Shuttle to Nowhere

Instead of the originally proposed electric Light Rail train from Tenafly directly through to Weehawken and Hoboken, NJ Transit now wants us to ride a Diesel shuttle to a isolated transfer station in the outskirts of North Bergen.

  by IRFCA_RRfan
Thanks for bringing this thread back!

  by Steve F45
why not run the diesel along or on the west shore tracks once it gets to north bergen then connect to the main/bergen/pvl lines once past secaucus?

  by Irish Chieftain
The West Shore Line tracks go into the tunnel. That is light-rail territory right now. The Northern Branch tracks do not go through Secaucus further south of there.

What ought to be done (and I've said this before) is to keep the DMU going further south on the Northern Branch, and either build a proper connector to West End for the DMUs to access Hoboken Terminal (not the reverse-move switchback that they had in the past when they first switched Northern Branch trains from Erie Terminal into Hoboken — that helped make the service unpopular), or rebuild the Bergen Arches and make a connector into Hoboken Terminal at East End (which would have to go over the HBLRT elevated tracks near East End, or under them, at some point).

DMU service using North Bergen as a newer version of "Susquehanna Transfer" will not work.

  by MickD
IC, I missed riding the Northern Branch by only a few years. How was that switchback done? Was it via Boonton line?
  by manhattan exile
Here's more about the proposed 2 seat ride to HOB or Manhattan ferries and 3 seat ride to NYP, NWK and other points. I still don't get the attractiveness of this (big only if THE Tunnel is built):
Grant keeps plan rolling for rail service to Tenafly

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


ENGLEWOOD -- Thanks to some federal money, NJ Transit trains are expected to roll north to Tenafly by 2012.

Rep. Steve Rothman presented a $3.6 million check to NJ Transit on Monday to help restore passenger service on the 11-mile Northern Branch Line, beginning in North Bergen.

During a news conference at the Bergen Performing Arts Center, Rothman sought to assure train riders that extending NJ Transit service to eastern Bergen County will "move forward."

"This has been a long hoped-for, much-needed rail line," said Rothman, noting that the performing arts center is across the street from the Northern Branch's tracks.

The money will pay for a $6.3 million environmental impact study of NJ Transit's $500 million plan to use self-propelled diesel passenger cars on the line. The trolley-type cars will probably run every 15 minutes.

Rothman said he helped secure $1.1 million in federal transportation funds two years ago, and 2.5 million last year to help pay for the study.

He's hopeful that once construction begins in 2008, Congress will understand the importance of promoting public transportation and provide NJ Transit additional financial assistance.

"If we're going to have a 21st-century economy, they must subsidize commuter rail," Rothman said.

By 2012, the line is expected to connect to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system in North Bergen, where commuters will transfer to an electric-powered trolley car to Hoboken or Jersey City, Rothman said.

NJ Transit plans this month to open a station near Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, between 49th and 51st streets.

The Northern Line will end near the Tonnelle Avenue station.

Eventually, NJ Transit plans to extend the light rail system west to the Meadowlands, terminating at the sports complex.

On the Northern Line, NJ Transit officials expect that as many as 7,500 riders will use the self-propelled cars every day.

With plans under way for a new rail tunnel to Manhattan, the service is expected to be converted into a one-seat ride into New York City.

"Our message to people sitting in traffic is that ... help is on the way," said Steve Santoro, NJ Transit's chief of capital projects.

Critics have questioned whether the line will attract enough riders to sustain itself.

  by AndyB
From the Jersey Journal (Wed. 02/15)
Fed $$$ to plan light rail's 3rd phase

NJ Transit has received $3.6 million in federal funding to conduct engineering and environmental studies for the third phase of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line.

Steve Santoro, head of capital programs for NJ Transit, said the money will allow the agency to get the 11-mile Northern Branch on an "aggressive" schedule.

That means construction of the Northern Branch - on which diesel trains would run from Tenafly to North Bergen - could begin by 2008 and be completed by 2011, officials said.
Light rail offically out of the picture or is this diesel light rail?
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