• Northern Branch HBLR (was DMU proposal)

  • Discussion related to New Jersey Transit rail and light rail operations.
Discussion related to New Jersey Transit rail and light rail operations.

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  by MickD
Appreciate the clarification.Although considering where it is and what
it's surrounded by, it's tough for me personally how much of a concern
DMU operation into Hoboken might pose.Considering all the traffic that
travels through the streets of Hoboken to feed into the Lincoln &Holland Tunnels, the effect of these units would seem to me be minimal.
  by Douglas John Bowen
Right now, Hoboken's attitude(s) toward DMU operations are not of key concern, because HBLRT holds sway on the ex-West Shore right-of-way, making (true) DMU use doubtful.

However, for those 40,000-plus residents of Hoboken who might believe that their air quality isn't meeting EPA standards, a "little added" or "minimal' increase in diesel particulates might be, shall we say, not particularly welcome. It is, after all, one reason why Hoboken in particular, and other Hudson County municipalities in general, bought into (electric) LRT after years of haggling and hedging.

As MickD correctly notes, many in the Mile Square City remain blind to the larger, more constant pollution generated by rubber-tired vehicles. But NJ-ARP would hasten to note that Hoboken is hardly alone among New Jersey muncipalities to practice such myopia.

  by The Rising
Hello all,

I've been watching this thread for a while now. I was surprised when NJ Transit announced they would replace the light rail concept on this branch with an FRA compatible DMU operation.

I've read all the speculation in this thread with regards to why the switch was made. Quite frankly, I personally believed the northern branch should be an electrified light rail corridor.

However, I was reading a back issue of Railpace recently about the Northern branch, and something dawned on me that I hadn't considered before.

:-D With that said, I put forth this idea for us all to speculate on!

Could the reason NJ Transit decided to switch modes be that projected ridership might exceed the optimal design limits of a light rail system?

By way of comparison, rush hour trains on the northern branch, at one time, consisted of trains that were 6+ cars in length. Since the ideal length of a light rail trainset is usually about 2 to 3 cars in length, did the possiblility that ridership on the Bergen (northern branch) portion of line could grow faster the capacitity to move all the people via the techonology that was chosen.

Could you imagine the press jumping on an issue like this.

It would be very embarrassing to NJ Transit to be a victim of its own success. The idea that a system might outstrip its capacity before the first year would certainly prove to be intersting fodder for all forms of media, including this one here at railroad.net.

Imagine this: :wink:

NJT's planners know the ridership will be there.

They spend millions to build the system.

They expect 10,000 daily riders to show up to start.

They build the system to handle 25,000 daily riders.

By the end of the first year the average turns out to be 35,000 daily riders.

Nobody can get on the trains after the first three stops.

They trains are beyond full when they reach Bergenline Avenue.

People in Hoboken scream they can't get on the trains because they are already full.

Imagine the possilbilty of the above-mentioned scenario and the idea comes to mind that maybe there were other factors that came into the picture that led to the decision to switch modes that we hadn't seen before.

It's just my my opinion, but maybe that angle needs to be considered and explored in this debate.

Well, that's all for now folks.

See ya all later.
  by Douglas John Bowen
Indeed, The Rising's theoretical supposition might make a lot of sense since New Jersey Transit has been told by others -- notably Al Cafiero, while he headed the Transit Committee of Bergen County -- that the Northern Branch would deliver the most ridership of any portion of HBLRT.

We at NJ-ARP can only speculate on why NJ Transit would fear such success. The Rising offers one very plausible scenario.

But NJ-ARP would argue that, when it comes to capacity and frequency, LRT remains by far the optimal choice. HBLRT can offers headways as small as three (3) minutes; HBLRT already has "Three Roads" in Hoboken ready to handle heavy Bergen County-related traffic. HBLRT can run two-car trains. In short, HBLRT can adapt to current demand, and future growth.

One might conclude that NJT still fails to grasp LRT's potential -- and NJ-ARP speculates just so. However, it is not speculation to note that NJT planners have constructed an artificial divide to justify or direct LRT and "Bus Rapid Transit." LRT is for cities, while BRT is for suburban locations, NJT argues (and the argument, as presented so far, is not much more complex than that).

Bergen County, New Jersey's quintessential post-WWII baby-boomer suburb, is still (in the eyes of NJT) a "suburb," so it gets ... well, OK, even NJT can't argue for BRT anymore, given the Lincoln Tunnel XBL reality. But something else. DMU -- there's another acronym. Yeah, that'll work. Now add a (non-existent, non-planned) one-seat ride.

NJ-ARP, over and over, has pointed (and will continue to point) to the River Line as a sterling example of how the light rail concept can work for suburban, or small-town, situations. But NJT fails to take the hint made with a hammer. It thinks it knows better.

Bergen County itself makes it worse. Instead of rightly noting "Hey, Burlington County gets light rail; why can't we?" it draws the wrong conclusion ("You guys don't deserve it!") and buys into the NJT sleight-of-hand offered, perhaps motivated by the very reasons The Rising postulates -- and we come full circle.

  by JoeG
I am continually amazed when I read posts that try to figure out what NJT is planning. NJ-ARP doesn't know, they only can guess, like when the Kremlinologists of Cold War days tried to fathom what the Soviet Union was going to do, from obscure and incomplete clues.
Here we have a public agency that seems to have no obligation to share its plans or its logic with the public. I mean, the NYMTA, not exactly known for its openness, is a model of transparency compared to NJT.
Doesn't NJT have to have meetings where they talk about and decide things, and where transcripts and minutes are kept? Couldn't FOIA requests pry some information out of them?
I'd say that NJT was run by the ghost of Robert Moses, but he, at least, got things built in a hurry, which no one could say of NJT.

  by Jtgshu
I think The Rising has a good point........

NOT building an electric light rail operation could actually save them money AND face in teh future.

It always seemed to me that the light rail line all the way up there would be just too long - my apologies, from not being too familar with the area, but are there many intermediate "points of interest" that the line would serve where you could continually "turn over" the seating of the car (like in a restaurant) you EXPECT people to get off before other people would get on, spreading out the load for the same number of seats.

What if what the rising would say would happen is true? What would NJT do then if teh trains were packed beyond capacity and the limitations of Light rail were exceeded? Rip it up and build heavy rail??????????

Then we would all be screaming - "why not do that in the first place????" " what a waste of money!!!!!", etc, etc, etc.

The "wounds" of the success of Midtown Direct are still VERY fresh to NJT. So much so that they proceed VERY cautiously with anything anymore.

And I have to wonder if there are a few up there at NJT who might think that Midtown direct was a mistake, because if it wasn't built, they wouldn't have to be planning for the THE tunnel right now, adn could EASILY handle the explosive growth of NEC ridership. (not to say that the tunnel wouldn't need to be built eventually) The railroad might be starting to look longer term, because in teh past, short term, and medium term has really bit them in the butt, because they simply have been a victim of their own success. (which is why I think its a mistake to build the loop track at SEC and run additional lines into NYP and the new 34th st. station - the capacity isn't going to be there in the future, maybe initally, but it will quickly evaporate, but thats another topic)

But it was only 10 short years ago when NJT had PLENTY of capacity, and the problems, and crisis faced by NJT heavy rail at least, weren't even CONCEIVABLE.

  by The Rising
Hello again,

Just to comment on the fine response to my previous post from Mr. Bowen at NJARP.

I have stated, and restate here again, I personally believe the Northern Branch proposal should be for a continuation of the current electrified HBLR system. To me, that makes the most sense.

What I was attempting to offer here was the concept that the decision to change modes from light rail to DMU may have been made regarding the concern about the total "volume of ridership" issue, not necessarily just the one seat ride to Manhattan vs. two seat ride via the ferry or PATH.

I don't believe NJ Transit would fear success at all. However, they could fear making a mistake with regards to selecting the "right" mode to serve the market place. Light rail forces have a considerable voice inside NJT. Mr. Bowen's well placed comments regarding light rails ability would justify the weight Light Rail is given inside NJT.

Traditional commutter rail also has its place in the spectrum of transportation options and I have no doubt that NJARP would agree with that statement as well. I'm wondering if the issue here is nothing more than "Which way do we go? Light Rail vs. Commuter Rail" I was trying to bring attention to the fact that there may very well be an internal issue at NJ Transit with regards to which mode is the best mode to handle the traffic.

The examination of that issue would certainly explain the soul searching NJ Transit might be doing here with regards to this proposal. The very mixed signal that the departure from the original concept has sent seems to support that conclusion, at least in my mind. I was hoping that we might explore that issue with regards to the subject line here.

Well that's all for now folks,

See ya all later.....
  by Douglas John Bowen
At this juncture, we must respectfully part company with both Jtgshu and The Rising, though we (think we) understand where each one is coming from. In fact, let's say, for argument's sake, that both see NJT's motivations clearly. NJ-ARP must still protest.

If NJ Transit were promising to offer anything like LRT headways -- even close, not even exact -- for the Northern Branch with DMU, we might buy into Jtgshu's argument. But NJT is not. It's talking 15-minute headways at the peak -- at the peak -- which is something HBLRT more or less offers off-peak at present (or, north of Hoboken, all the time).

Add to that the fact that (in NJT's scenario, at least), we're talking DMUs, not "regular train" consists. OK, no doubt we can couple DMUs, so we'll have two cars, better capacity. Two LRT cars still beats that, and that's before we start running lots of LRT frequency.

Jtgshu asks a very legitimate question: Any intermediate on-off stations or O/D pairs in Bergen County? NJ-ARP would argue that, at the very least, Tenafly and Englewood offer one such. That's before we ponder a stop for Englewood Hospital, by the way.

Could DMUs serve such O/D pairs? Undoubtedly, and in a nearby thread Jtgshu notes the considerable intrastate traffic already handled by NJT Rail on the Coast Line. But that doesn't disqualify LRT for the Northern Branch, either.

Likewise, we'll grant The Rising that there are various "factions" within NJ Transit, and the pro-LRT faction does still exist. But (JoeG, please take note), NJ-ARP knows for a fact that this faction is seriously weaker than it has been. We'll leave it to the conspiracy theorists why that happened, or if it's good or bad. But we know for a fact it has happened.

And, with all due respect to The Rising, we do question any automatic assumption that NJT wants success, after the despicable negative buildup and runup the company made with the River Line. (Since we addressed this "problem" with NJT face to face, we're not talking behind anyone's back here.)

One more quibble: NJ-ARP doesn't ever seek "commuter rail," though we will settle for that if we must. (That's in case MOM, as one instance, starts off as strictly "commuter rail.") The nearby Pascack Valley Line is NJT's last true "commuter" rail line. We want that upgraded; the (coming up on seven years) postponement of such upgrading is unacceptable.

That said, we do concur with both Jtgshu and The Rising that many within NJT are pursuing DMU service for the Northern Branch in good faith. We strive to treat those individuals with the respect they are due, especially when they strive to treat us (and others) in like fashion.
Last edited by Douglas John Bowen on Wed May 03, 2006 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Tom V
The reasoning of the switch to DMU on the Northern Branch has to do with the eventual construction "THE" Tunnel, once built they would use dual modes to link Bergen, Main Line trains as well as West Shore and Northern Branch trains to NY 34th street.
  by Douglas John Bowen
Tom V is correct; that's the premise and the promise.

And that's why it's astounding that few seem to notice that there's no guarantee of any such one-seat ride. In fact, right now, there's no plan. None. It's not in the works from the "Northern Branch" side, and it's nowhere to be found in T.H.E. Tunnel prep work. It's not there.

That's just dumbfounding. And yet Bergen County ... and perhaps others ... have bought into a nonexistent thing.

  by Nasadowsk
If there's an intent to get a 'one seat ride', then why not build the pertenant extensions as heavy rail ready, with catenary suitable for 12.5 or 25kv? It may be overkill for LRT, but if LRT is just a temporary placeholder, it makes more sense than gambling on a dual mode locomotive that may/m,ay not appear and may/may not work (past history has shown DMs generally don't work very well)
  by Douglas John Bowen
NJ-ARP respectfully but pointedly asks: One-seat ride to where?

If New York is the overarching, end-all prize, then yes, one must make preparations in small steps.

But NJ-ARP objects to the assertion that seems to blind NJT, and indeed so many. Manhattan is the center of the known Western world, but it is not the only rail or transit market worth serving. And we remain unconvinced that other markets, in fact, must suffer simply because the overtouted "one-seat ride" must take priority, whether to Manhattan or anywhere else.

Even if the Northern Branch lines up behind the Raritan Valley Line, Pascack Valley Line, Main/Bergen/Port Jervis Lines ... even then, how long must the Northern Branch wait? "We've already got a one-seat ride to Manhattan; it's the bus" one Tenafly resident offered to NJ-ARP (and by extension, NJT) during an NJT preview of DMU -- replete with photos of DLRT, mind you.

During that wait, what hath Northern Branch DMU wrought? At least a three-seat ride if one insists on DMU/LRT/ferry to Midtown Manhattan -- and for most, a four-seat ride. NJ-ARP isn't against transfers, but for those who insist on fewer transfers as a measure of transit quality, this would appear to be a curious step backward.

All this while we slight, or ignore, HBLRT's real and growing ridership and impact on New Jersey's Gold Coast (which, in normal political terms, should count for something, it being in New Jersey). Oh, yes, indeed, DMUs can still link with HBLRT in North Bergen, offering a two-seat ride to and from points south. But (again), gee, we're being told transfers are bad.

If Nasadowsk's observation of LRT as "placeholder" is prevalent within and throughout rail and transit circles, then NJ-ARP must acknowledge it has its work cut out for it. Very well, then. (But we like the catenary idea, actually.)

Just a reminder: NJ-ARP is not against DMUs, properly applied. In fact, we respectfully remind any and all that we helped co-sponsor the debut of the Colorado Railcar in New Jersey. And we can think of numerous applications and use of DMUs throughout the state, both on new and existing passenger rail rights-of-way.

  by Tom V
Keep it a heavy rail line with the DMU's, if there's a need to electrify the line they can always do it some where along the line if the dual modes don't work out as planned.

To build the line as a electric light rail line only to tear all that infastructure out in seven years to replace it with heavy rail compatible equipment would be a huge waste of money.
  by Douglas John Bowen
We concur that putting in electric light rail on the Northern Branch, and then removing it, would be extravagant and a non-starter.

NJ-ARP advocates electric light rail for the Northern Branch as an extension of HBLRT. As we have outlined here, we have severe problems with other alternatives, even were they to be more than phantom options.

To that end, NJ-ARP remains politically active on this issue.

  by MickD
That's how I feel.With DMU's if NJT ever felt it was needed,it'd be easier to extend service northward .Will this Turnpike extention consume all of
currently vacant Arches to the exclusion of possible rail use?If not and it was run through that way, effect to residential west side of Hoboken would be minimal, because from what I remember, there isn't really any where right of way exits portals,beyond what's on top of the cliffs,unless something was built very recently.,and, should restoration of NYS&W
service south from Hackensack ever materialize it would make even more sense.
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