UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Raritan Valley Rail Line Coalition has been seeking a direct route to Manhattan for nearly two decades. Its latest attempt to expand the limited “one-seat” ride options has been denied and further requests don’t appear to have a chance any time soon.
The RVRL citizens group met with NJ Transit staff Sept. 28 to propose an early evening one-seat ride to Manhattan. The proposal, which seeks to eliminate a train change in Newark, was turned down due to the shortage of track space in New York Penn Station, according to the coalition’s quarterly one-seat ride briefing.
“The Raritan Valley Line clearly deserves the one-seat ride into Manhattan,” coalition Chairman Peter Palmer told group members at a meeting held Oct. 30 at the Westfield Municipal Building. He added that, until improvements are made to rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River, a one-seat ride during rush hour is likely not possible. Without major construction, the only way to achieve the one-seat ride currently during peak hours would be to take away service from other lines, he said.
The Raritan Valley Line extends from Newark Penn Station through Union and Somerset counties before terminating at High Bridge in Hunterdon County.
“The main challenges with increasing one-seat rides for the Raritan Valley Rail Line remain lack of capacity in the Hudson River tunnels, lack of track space at New York Penn Station and lack of identified funding,” NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith told LocalSource on Nov. 6.
The RVRL Coalition has been advocating for a one-seat ride since 1998 for several reasons, not solely confined to convenience; according to a statement on the group’s website, “While the ‘one-seat’ ride may seem like a convenience for commuters, in reality it will foster great economic growth along the whole corridor.”
Gene Jannotti of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce confirmed Palmer’s statement and told LocalSource in a Nov. 10 email that the one-seat ride to New York Penn Station would have significant financial benefits for the region.
“One-seat ride will give a tremendous boost to our economy as more and more people will want to locate in all of the areas along the Raritan Valley Rail Line and as a result it will increase local business,” Jannotti said. “As it is now, many local residents travel to other train stations that offer one-seat ride today. They would stay local if one-seat ride were offered.”
The promise of an easier commute and pathway into Manhattan is a major feature for developers. Russo Development is planning more than a complex of more than 300 units in Garwood, adjacent to the rail line.