If it seemed for a moment that the idea to replace the much-maligned and much-loved Dinky train with a rubber-wheeled bus rapid transit (BRT) was a slam dunk, it no longer appears so. On September 30 the Princeton Regional Planning Board was expected to vote on a resolution supporting the BRT, but when the board meeting was beset by roughly 150 opponents to the plan, the board sent the resolution back to a subcommittee for further review.
Supporters of the Dinky, which connects Princeton Junction station to Princeton Borough and the university campus, and proponents of alternative ideas overwhelmingly denounced the Planning Board’s favored approach to replacing the train with BRT.
The Dinky, seen as a Princeton institution by some and a dinosaur by others, has become the centerpiece of an argument over the most efficient way to offer public transit to and around downtown Princeton from Princeton Junction Station.
Princeton University wants to move the station from its University Place terminus, across from McCarter Theater, to a new spot 500 feet to the south in order to make way for a $101 million arts village.
Board chairman Marvin Reed, perhaps the most vocal cheerleader of the $87 million BRT plan, eventually conceded that further review is necessary to make sure Princeton’s mass transit future is in the public interest. The board suggested a survey of commuters to find out which ideas are favored.
There are several suggestions in the offing, from the cooperative (the university’s potential partnering with the borough to link the school’s TigerTransit buses) to the futuristic (an intelligent transportation network system designed to run on electricity and operate when it reaches a certain passenger weight). There also have been suggestions for an underground Dinky station, a personal rapid transit shuttle system, and a network of trolley cars.
Fans of the Dinky argue that the costs associated with replacing the train are not worth it, but there is little agreement on a favored alternative anyway. What is consistent is a public opposition to a BRT system, which opponents say costs too much and will cause more traffic problems than it will solve in an already-clogged downtown.
Five days before the Planning Board’s decision Princeton Future held a public event outlining the good and the bad of keeping and replacing the Dinky. The well-attended gathering offered the first major public airing of alternatives to what was expected to be the Dinky’s fate.