Princeton (NJT station)
2014 station building as seen from Alexander Street
1 block south of University Place
Princeton, New Jersey
|Connections||NJT Bus: 605 and 655; Princeton Tiger Transit and Free-B shuttle buses|
|Platforms||1 side platform|
|Owned by||Princeton University|
|Operator||New Jersey Transit|
|Passengers (2012)||1,021 (average weekday)|
Princeton Railroad Station (1918)
|Location||Princeton, New Jersey, USA|
|Architect||Alexander C. Shand|
|Architectural style||Collegiate Gothic|
|Part of||Princeton Historic District (#75001143)|
|Added to NRHP||June 27, 1975|
|Designated NJRHP||March 17, 1984|
Princeton is the northern terminus of the Princeton Branch commuter rail service operated by New Jersey Transit (NJT), and is located on the Princeton University campus in Princeton, New Jersey. At the branch's southern end at Princeton Junction, connections are available to NJT's Northeast Corridor Line and peak-hour Amtrak trains. The shuttle train between the two stations is known as the "Dinky", and has also been known as the "PJ&B", for "Princeton Junction and Back". At 2.9 mi (4.7 km), it is the shortest scheduled commuter rail line in the United States.
Plans to relocate Princeton Station 460 ft (140 m) south, proposed by the university and approved by NJT and the Princeton Regional Planning Board, were met with opposition from some commuters, residents, alumni, and transportation advocates. A few legal challenges were still pending as of January 2015, even after the opening of the new station. Initial studies to build a bus transitway along the Dinky right-of-way as part of a bus rapid transit system have been conducted.
The historic 1918 train station closed permanently on August 23, 2013. Approximately 1,200 ft (370 m) to the southeast, a temporary station operated from August 26, 2013 through November 9, 2014, accompanied by various bus routes shuttling among the old station, the temporary station, and Princeton Junction. The new permanent Princeton Station, designed by architect Rick Joy, opened on November 17, 2014, with construction continuing on a complex of arts and dining buildings in the surrounding area.
The 1918–2013 station was built on a site 0.25 mi (0.40 km) to the south of one that had been built in 1865. It was constructed when the branch was part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) under the direction of architect-engineer Alexander C. Shand, who had also overseen construction of the now-demolished Philadelphia Broad Street Station. Designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, it contained a stone station house, a stone freight house, and a canopy-covered platform. The station has been owned by several different parties since the PRR era: Penn Central (1968–1976), Conrail (1976–June 1984), New Jersey Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit Rail Operations (to October 1984), and Princeton University. It is listed individually on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and as a contributing property on the National Register of Historic Places.
The relocation of Princeton Station has been a matter of controversy since 2006, when the university announced its intention to construct a new arts center calling for the replacement of the current station house, the shortening of the trackage right-of-way (ROW), and the creation of a new terminus 460 ft (140 m) to the south. Rail advocates fear that access to the new station will be less convenient, resulting in decreased ridership that could "threaten the train's existence." The proposal prompted protest from residents, students, faculty, and alumni and led to the creation of the organization Save the Dinky.
In October 2010, the Princeton Regional Planning Board passed a resolution supporting the continuation of train service. On October 3, 2011, Save the Dinky and residents filed suit against the university and NJT to stop the move. Soon after, the borough, township, and university agreed on a memo of understanding in which the school promised to fund a transit study and provide other benefits in exchange for rezoning for the combined arts/transit project.
The station house has been the property of the university since 1984, when it purchased it from NJT, with guarantees of public use. That year it was listed on the state (ID#1742) and national registers (thematic survey) of historic places. In 2012, NJT requested abandonment of that public use from the State Historic Preservation Office. Save the Dinky contends that the move would breach the original agreement when the property was transferred, would cause inconvenience, and is poor planning. The university believes it is a necessary improvement for redevelopment of the neighborhood.
In December 2012, the Regional Planning Board gave approval for the project to proceed. In June 2013, NJT approved a property transfer agreement with the university involving three parcels around the station and proposed arts center. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board declined a petition to review the planned move. The New Jersey court system dismissed the 2011 lawsuit in December 2013, and a related appeal in March 2014, and a follow-up petition in July 2014, and a challenge against the Regional Planning Board in January 2015. Despite these federal, state and local rulings in the project's favor, and the opening of the new station, further litigation continues.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and New Jersey Transit are conducting studies to develop the Central New Jersey Route 1 Bus Rapid Transit Project. Parts of the proposals call for the construction of the "Dinky Transitway" along the Princeton Branch ROW, which would incorporate the rail service and add exclusive bus lanes and a greenway for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. NJT has indicated that moving the station would not be detrimental to its planning.
In April 2012, the university submitted a revised plan for the arts and transit center, which calls for the extension of the station house onto the right-of-way for possible use as a restaurant. The Regional Planning Board has passed an ordinance requiring the land be preserved for a transportation right-of-way that could eventually extend farther into the central business district at Nassau Street. The new station house plans would require the board's approval before construction could start. According to the university, ownership of the trackage would have to change hands in order for the transitway to be implemented.
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Under the transfer struck yesterday, NJ Transit would sell a 0.84 acre parcel located in the former Princeton Township to the university. Parking for the new Dinky station would be built on that parcel. NJ Transit would buy a 0.06 acre parcel from the university in the former township to realign the Princeton branch train tracks. The agency also would trade its existing public transportation easement in the former borough and township for another 1.47-acre easement from the university.
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