Since Chip Crider’s March 24 Interchange column, we’ve heard quite a bit more about the battle over Princeton’s mass transit future. As you may know, the Dinky train, which connects Princeton University to the Princeton Junction train station, is on the chopping block. The university would like to move the station from its longtime place directly across the street from McCarter Theater to a spot roughly 400 yards back toward the train station, in an effort to make room for an arts district on University Place.
The Borough Council’s latest solution is to eliminate the Dinky altogether and replace it with Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT. This would connect Princeton Junction to the university by running a bus along the Dinky’s existing right of way. The main advantage according to its proponents? Mobility. Unlike the train, which is limited to two stations, the bus could be run throughout town.
In his column, Crider scoffed at the BRT idea, proposing instead to develop a system called PRT — Personal rapid Transit. This is a system of golf cart-sized vehicles on dedicated routes that could connect the two train stations but also traverse princeton without adding to its street traffic — a major critique of the BRT plan.
While the editorial board of the Daily Princetonian has made its case on behalf of the BRT — it has written that a BRT system would benefit the university by allowing the arts district to grow and by providing reliable, regular transportation to and from the university — not everyone is happy to think of a world without the Dinky. Some, like Princeton University sophomore and Daily Princetonian columnist Charlie Metzger recently wrote that replacing the train with a bus would be a debacle.
A third option, as espoused by Crider, is the PRT, which so far is in use only at Heathrow Airport in London. But Crider has an ally in Michael Paluszek, president of Princeton Satellite Systems in Plainsboro, who says that the same system could easily be adopted here. Following is his letter.
#b#To the Editor: PRT is A-OK#/b#
The Regional Planning Board should consider replacing the Dinky with a fully automated Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) System, such as the ULTra System being built at Heathrow Airport in London. This system would replace the Dinky and could be extended to provide service to the new hospital and the malls along Route 1.
It could also be extended into Princeton, perhaps as far as the Harrison Street Shopping Center. While some might object to an elevated system, it would not compete with automobiles for road space.
The cost per mile is estimated to be between $7 million and $15 million, which would mean 45 miles of track for the estimated $700 million price tag of the Bus Rapid Transit System. A PRT would be more convenient than either the Dinky or a bus system and has the potential to reduce automobile traffic in and around Princeton.
Michael Paluszek, Princeton Satellite Systems