Princeton Transitway

Princeton Transitway

NJ TRANSIT presented an overview of the Princeton Transitway Study to the public at Princeton’s Public Transit Advisory Committee meeting on April 26, 2022 and at West Windsor’s Community Development Commission meeting on May 24, 2022. The presentation can be viewed here: LINK

What is it?

  • The Princeton Transitway Study is a concept-level review of NJ TRANSIT’s Princeton Branch that will help direct the future of transit service along this corridor. The study will evaluate existing conditions and estimate future demand, considering planned developments, as well as how new and emerging transportation technologies and other trends are changing how and when people want to travel. 
  • This study also presents the opportunity to evaluate the potential for the corridor to become a multi-modal backbone that could be used to improve local and regional connections for bus and rail transit, as well as pedestrian, bicycle, and other micromobility modes. A potential extension of service into Downtown Princeton and the potential to add new stops along the corridor will also be evaluated.  

New transportation technologies and the role of the corridor will be evaluated within the context of the following preliminary alternatives. It should be noted that the alternatives may evolve as the project progresses.

  • Alternative 1: A roadway with embedded rail that can support both rail and rubber-tired transit vehicles. 
  • Alternative 2: A stand-alone rail corridor with a parallel roadway for rubber-tired tram and/or bus service. 
  • Alternative 3: A roadway with a guideway that could support a rubber-tired tram and buses.
  • Alternative 4: A no build option that continues to use the existing Arrow III cars or similar rail vehicle. No new stations would be considered under this alternative. 

The study will conclude with the selection of an initially preferred alternative or alternatives that would improve the quality, reliability, and frequency of service on the Princeton Branch to meet the needs of the surrounding community now and in the future. The initially preferred alternative(s) could then be advanced for further study and design. 

Why now?

Rail service on the Princeton Branch has provided an important transportation link between Princeton and Princeton Junction stations for over 150 years. However, NJ TRANSIT has reached an important crossroads for the service, necessitating a study of the corridor to address the following existing and future anticipated needs:  

  • Aging rail vehicles. The vehicles that are used on the Princeton Branch, as well as other rail corridors, are 43 years old and will soon be replaced with high-capacity, modern, multilevel vehicles systemwide.  However, a minimum of three (3) vehicles are required to make up a train consist, which will present significant operational and efficiency challenges on the short Princeton Branch. 
  • Declining ridership. Ridership on the Princeton Branch has declined from 1,095 average weekday boardings in 2009 to 515 in 2019.  This is likely the result of serval combined factors, including limited service frequency, service reliability issues due to the age of the rail vehicles, and the availability of parking at the Princeton Junction station. 
  • Changing demands for transportation. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed travel patterns and will likely have a longer-term impact on working from home. Therefore, NJ TRANSIT must plan to respond to emergent needs now and into the future and ensure a more robust and flexible system that can be scaled to meet changing demands. 
  • New demand along the corridor. With development planned by Princeton University and transit-oriented development in West Windsor, transit demand is anticipated to increase. This growth will require more efficient connections to the Northeast Corridor, as well as the potential for new stops along the corridor to serve the new developments. 

What is the study area?

The primary study area includes the Princeton Branch corridor between the Princeton Station and Princeton Junction Station, shown in yellow in the map below. Concept plans will be prepared for alternatives that fall within this study area. In addition to looking at alternatives for the Princeton Branch, the study will also assess opportunities to improve connections to other modes, including bus, pedestrian, bicycle, and other micromobility modes. These connections will be evaluated within the multi-modal connectivity study area, defined in the green line on the map.

What are the alternatives?

NJ TRANSIT conducted a preliminary evaluation of four (4) Alternative concepts for the Princeton Branch, which are described in the chart below. Additional details are provided in the Alternatives Presentation here. (NOTE: While the presentation depicts alignments and routings, these are for illustrative purposes only. Precise alignments and routings have not been developed or designed for this phase of the process.)

The purpose of this preliminary evaluation was to screen the alternatives and select one or more alternatives to advance for further study. The above-listed alternatives were evaluated at a high-level based on the following factors:

  • Potential peak period service frequencies
  • Enhanced community connections
  • Mobility access
  • Potential right-of-way (ROW) impacts
  • Potential environmental impacts
  • Stakeholder and public input 
  • Order of magnitude capital and fleet costs

Based on the results of the evaluation, and customer and stakeholder input, Alternatives 1 and 4 will be advanced for further study and evaluation. Alternative 2 will not be advanced because of substantial potential ROW impacts which would require residential property acquisition, potential environmental impacts, and higher implementation costs. Alternative 3 will not be advanced due to customer and stakeholder preference for alternatives with higher service frequencies, as well as for alternatives with rail service. 

Over the next few months, NJ TRANSIT will continue to analyze and develop the selected Alternatives. Once more detailed assessments and analysis have been conducted, the refined Alternatives will be shared with the public.

What have we heard?

As part of the Study, NJ TRANSIT conducted two community surveys. The first survey was conducted in Spring 2021 to learn more about the perceived importance of different challenges and opportunities for the Dinky. We received over 1,300 responses! 

Improved reliability, improved frequency, and access to downtown Princeton were identified by respondents as the most important needs and opportunities. There was also significant interest in new and improved bike and pedestrian connections along the corridor. This feedback was strongly considered as the alternative concepts were developed.

The second survey was conducted in Winter of 2021 to understand customer, stakeholder, and public preferences for the alternative concepts, the reason for the preference, and potential concerns with the alternatives. Nearly 1,000 responses were received; results from the survey were used to help determine which alternatives should be progressed for additional study and consideration.

What is the timeline of the study?

The Princeton Transitway Study will take approximately one year to complete and is anticipated to conclude in early 2022. However, there are important milestones planned throughout the project, all of which will involve stakeholder and community outreach and coordination. 

How can I get involved?

We need your feedback to help ensure that that final plan responds to the needs of the community. We will be holding virtual meetings with agency and municipal stakeholders, an advisory committee, and the community throughout the project. We want you to share your input on future mobility in the Princeton area. For updates regarding project status, upcoming meetings, surveys, and other news please:

  • Follow us on social media:
    • Facebook.com/NJTRANSIT
    • Twitter.com/NJTRANSIT 
  • Sign up for updates or leave a comment here.

Project materials

Download the Princeton Transitway Study Kickoff Presentation here.

Download the Princeton Transitway Study Alternatives presentation here

Download the Fact Sheet here.

Download Frequently Asked Questions here.