On another note, we'd respectfully inquire why an additional LRT substation might be considered "prohibitively expensive," while flyovers for (DMU?) service to Hoboken and/or vicinity would seem to be a good investment
One additional substation? Unless I am mistaken (correction welcome), 750-volts DC overhead wires require a substation every two miles, and there are fifteen miles (approximately) separating the Tonnelle Avenue station from the former Northern Railroad of NJ Tenafly station. Would that not translate to seven or more substations?
"Commuter rail" is jargon, pure and simple. It's true that most people use it without thinking -- and that's a big part of the problem. It "sounds" limiting and, therefore, by logical extension, it does limit people's thinking about passenger rail's capabilities. We at NJ-ARP see it all the time, not just from railfans but from experts
It's very old jargon, dating back to when passenger rail "commuted" fares to ease the burden on workers traveling between home and workplace (especially with monthly, and sometimes annual, tickets). Nowadays, it's the one piece of jargon that separates passenger rail under FRA oversight (that operates on the general railway network, separated from other railways) from that under FTA oversight ("heavy rail" subways and "light rail"). It merely "sounds limiting" since historically, the frequency of "commuter rail" referred to service operating at peak hours only in a peak direction only.
Also, frankly, NJTR is a US corporation, whereas Kinki-Sharyo and Itachu (30 percent stakeholders in 21st Century Rail Corporation; the other 70 percent by a subsidiary of Raytheon, which reminds one of Bechtel's involvement in SNJLRT/River Line) are not.
From the perspective of LRT advocates in Tenafly, they've already had to suffer the "halfway" designation, from outside, as Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit first completed the "Hudson" portion, leaving Bergen for later
Originally, this light rail project did not have "Bergen" in its name at all, nor did it have a Bayonne segment. Even worse, it was supposed to be the light rail for the Hudson County Waterfront (hence the original name "Hudson County Waterfront Transportation Corridor"), of which it serves a minimal segment today.
Anecdotes abound as to the light rail being somehow "responsible" for neighborhoods in its surroundings being "gentrified". However, this does not explain what has happened to River Road and the former North Busway that stretches from Weehawken northward to Edgewater, which sees no HBLR service at all, but several buses and automobiles on the "stealth highway" makeover of River Road that is vilified by many light rail advocates. (Plus, the new denizens of River Road would nowadays perhaps react to the notion of a HBLR extension along River Road negatively, with the stereotypical "NIMBY" reaction, perhaps?)
Beyond that, we're not clear on how we're "hurt" by NJT's actions
HBLR's capital costs alone already exceed those of the supposedly "greatly expensive" high-speed rail corridors, by perhaps four to five times. And this is with use of existing rights of way versus building new right of way. NJT did not need to do this, even with the FRA requirements of physically separating LRT from general railway network on shared right of way. By comparison, adding lanes to highways looks far cheaper (even though in reality, it is not), and this would (and does) spark anti-rail voices to point fingers at the amounts of money spent on what ought to be far cheaper in terms of capital cost, even cheaper than "commuter rail".
In our view, it's dangerous to assert that light rail transit must always be "cheaper" than traditional rail, though we find it often is so. Price is important, but utility also matters, and if we believe LRT is a better fit for (let's say) the Northern Branch even if it were more expensive than DMUs would be for the route, we're not ashamed to say so
So far, it's not proving to be a superior fit to the traditional rail corridors it uses, one of which used to host prestigious trains of the Baltimore and Ohio RR (as well as 95-mph trains between Jersey City and Reading Terminal) and used to be a "Northeast Corridor" parallel to today's NEC in and of itself. (Could one imagine trolley cars on the former Pennsylvania Railroad?)
Even FRA passenger rail could attract the numbers that light rail does (and maybe more) were it to charge fares as cheap, and carry more passengers at faster average (and top) speeds. Using more vehicles at higher frequencies can lead to higher wear on both infrastructure and rolling stock, an expense that the low fare would not cover very well, even at 100 percent fare recovery. The Kinki-Sharyo vehicles are nice for short rides (under ten miles), but traveling twenty miles or more on such vehicles crammed with 200 people (as envisioned by NJT), even at 55 mph and a fare of $1.75, would be more than trying.
As far as the "Gold Coast" goes, even an extension of light rail to Tenafly leaves out most of Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, Edgewater, Cliffside Park, Fort Lee and Englewood Cliffs, and serves a still-industrial segment of North Bergen rather than its most populous areas.
NJT has been a stalwart enemy of light rail even while being its friend, mainly due to building it on the general railway network and unnecessarily expending high amounts of cash on it at the same time. This is a slap in the face to all rail advocates and rail passengers.