By Nick Muscavage, Bridgewater Courier News
Published 12:39 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2018
More than 20 mayors met with their state Senate representatives recently to make the case for providing a one-seat ride for commuters on the Raritan Valley Line (RVL).
The RVL Mayors Alliance of 28 mayors from towns on or near the train line represent more than 23,000 daily commuters "who have had to endure, for decades, the inconvenience and uncertainty of changing platforms and trains at Newark Penn Station," according to a news release.
A one-seat ride to Manhattan on the RVL has been a goal of Central Jersey commuters and activists for years.
Sens. Thomas Kean (R-21st District), Joseph Cryan (D-20th District) and Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-16th District) listened to mayors express their frustration about lack of direct service for their constituents and concern about a long-term negative impact on home values.
Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, co-chair of the Alliance, pointed out that RVL is the only NJ Transit train line that has track connectivity into New York Penn Station but no direct train service during peak hours.
“First and foremost, this is about improving quality of life for commuters but lack of mid-town direct train service also has a negative impact on home values and ability of businesses to attract employees putting our towns at a competitive disadvantage,” Mahr said.
Mahr and other co-chairs, including Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle and Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen, previously met with the senators, as well as Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-22nd District) and Sen. Michael Doherty (R-23rd District) to share a report that cited train lines with equal or lower ridership have multiple direct trains while RVL has none.
Fazen pointed to the growing ridership on RVL as a result of Transit-Oriented Development in multiple towns on the line and stressed the mayors were seeking service equitable to some other train lines.
The senators each expressed support for the Alliance's efforts to improve service on the RVL, but noted additional information about track capacity and train schedules is necessary.
Brindle asked the senators to request NJ Transit provide the necessary information so the analysis can begin.
“We know this issue is complicated but believe there is a solution," Brindle said. "The analysis and planning for a one-seat ride has to start now."
The RVL Mayors Alliance also sent a letter of support for a proposal to limit opening the Portal Bridge during peak hours.
The proposal from Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (both D-N.J.) requests the U.S. Coast Guard discontinue the practice in order to provide some temporary relief for New Jersey commuters.
At issue, are the ongoing train delays and cancellations caused when the Portal Bridge, which is a railroad bridge located in Secacus that spans the Hackensack River, malfunctions.
"Delays and cancellations caused by malfunctions of the Portal Bridge have added even more time to our commute," the mayors wrote in their letter. "The RVL Mayors Alliance has been outspoken in its support for the Gateway Project and replacement of the antiquated Portal Bridge. These projects are critical to the wellbeing and safety of our residents, the economy of New Jersey and each of our towns. But commuters cannot wait decades for completion of these projects."
Fazen, Mahr and Brindle make up the RVL Mayors Alliance co-chairs.