Princeton Future has added its own proposal for what to do with the Dinky train station. While the group agrees with Princeton University that the station should be moved from its location on University Place, across from McCarter Theater, in favor of the university’s proposed arts and transit neighborhood, it does not agree with where to put it.
To make way for the $101 million arts neighborhood that would bolster Princeton’s ambitions to make McCarter Theater a major arts center in the region, the university would like to move the current terminus of the Dinky 460 feet closer to Princeton Junction. The train connects the main line of the Northeast Corridor railroad to the downtown, ending at the edge of the university campus.
Princeton Future wants to save the Dinky station and extend the line farther toward Nassau Street, adding stops. According to Princeton Future, the Dinky station originally was located a quarter mile closer to the center of town and was moved to its current location because of campus expansions. The group says that constructing an arts building atop the right-of-way of the current rail line, which the university is considering, will forever preclude the possibility of the Dinky being extended back toward town.
The university has not commented on the Princeton Future plan, but has stated that it does not want to eliminate the Dinky itself.
For Princeton Future, a private nonprofit, the first step in improving the Dinky’s lot is to keep the station where it is. Step two would be a modest refurbishment of the station with minimal lighting and heating upgrades. Past that, the group envisions some redrawn maps that would allow a new arts district and the current Dinky station to coexist. The ideas include:
* Creating a graded crossing near a university parking lot and Baker Rink, which the group says would achieve the university’s need for an additional east-west circulation route; and
* Slightly realigning the Dinky’s tracks through the arts campus. This would be particularly useful in the event of an upgrade to modern (and more sustainable) in-town rail cars, the group states, and it would increase usable campus acreage by not having to dedicate space for a new station building and plaza, platforms, and drop-off/pick-up area.
According to the group, switching to modern light rail technology would make the Dinky a model of sustainable transit because it is cheaper to operate than a standard rail car (the Dinky is an NJ Transit standard train) and would permit the Dinky to pass through the arts campus in a safe, shared-space transit plaza. It also would allow the extension of the Dinky as a streetcar running up University Place to Nassau Street.
The group also states that station stops at several places along the Alexander Street/University Place corridor (including a terminus near Nassau Street) would diffuse the parking and drop-off/pick-up pressure that results from having only a single station at a location already plagued by parking problems and traffic.
It also recommends that a proposed university academic building be turned 90 degrees so that it would be out of the rail path.
The Princeton Borough Council, Township Committee, and Planning Board will continue the discussion at a public meeting on Monday, January 31, at 7 p.m. at the Princeton Township Municipal Complex.