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 And unpublished study data strongly suggest NJT has inflated LRT's cost vis a vis DMU significantly, and has played down the ridership of LRT vs. DMU (though even in NJT's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.