Monday, March 16, 2009

Transportation 2: Electric Boogaloo

This image infuriates me every time I look at it. It was created using Google Earth and Windows Vista's Snipping Tool (very handy).

The red line is NJ Transit's rail operations in New Jersey. To the north is the Northeast Corridor line, operating from Trenton to New York City. To the south is the Atlantic City line, operating from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station to Atlantic City. The squiggly line connecting them is the RiverLINE, a diesel-powered light rail service operating from Trenton to Camden along the Delaware River and operating along existing and operational freight rail lines. The portion of red line off to the right is the North Jersey Coast Line, provided here for reference as to NJ Transit's service footprint in NJ, ending in Bay Head and heading north to connect with the Northeast Corridor tracks just before Elizabeth and providing service into New York City.

The green line is the existing rail service between Camden and Trenton operating in Pennsylvania. This is controlled by Amtrak and leased to SEPTA (South-Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, for those not in "Teh Know") and NJ Transit for commuter rail operations. North of 30th Street Station, Amtrak operates the Northeast Regional (local), Acela (express), and on weekends, ACES (Atlantic City Express Service, stopping only at NYC, Newark and Atlantic City), while SEPTA operates the R7 and R3 services connecting daily commuters with Trenton and West Trenton, respectively (don't be fooled - the two cities are miles apart). To the south of 30th Street Station, the green line is simply the Atlantic City line. Amtrak used to operate daily service to Atlantic City but discontinued this when it was apparent that no one was actually using it on a daily basis (the ACES service is funded exclusively by the casinos in AC, operated with NJ Transit and Amtrak equipment, and tickets are exclusively distributed by Amtrak).

The yellow lines are simply geographic borders that I couldn't turn off in Google Earth, and the light blueish lines are county borders in NJ.

Now let's see... what could all those black lines all over the place be? Take a second and look at all of them.

Those are the rail lines crawling throughout South Jersey. Some are used as freight rail, some are abandoned, some have the last trains that used them still sitting there derelict, housing vagrants, all manner of wildlife, causing damage to surrounding environs and posing health and safety risks for area children, who are extremely likely to curiously play on or around these monoliths to times past, when rail service was privately operated and sprawled everywhere but now sit neglected.

Google searches for abandoned trains in New Jersey or perusing any Weird NJ magazine or related website often turns up pictures of these things. It's disgusting - anyone who claims to value transit in NJ at all should be appalled that the state has thus far ignored these lines and let the possibility for expansion simply die.

Here is another shot from Google Earth, this time showing simply the transit options SEPTA, with all its problems, has provided, compared to the transit options NJ Transit has provided to South Jersey residents. Pretty stark picture, eh? All of those rail lines, everything NJ Transit has done, has thus far centered on New York or Newark, and has ignored South Jersey and left it to rot. It's not that the freight companies aren't willing to work with them - far from it, they're very happy to work with commuter rail systems, as evidenced by the RiverLINE, which must shut down service at 10 PM and start up at 5 AM because it shares rails with CSX, a freight railroad. The expansion of the Newark Light Rail from Branch Brook Park Station to Grove Street Station in Bloomfield is owned by Norfolk Southern (as are the tracks which make up the other future expansion on the table, found at And again, portions of the expansion plan for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail are currently freight rail lines in use - and I could go on and on with examples of how freight and passenger rail can share lines without any trouble, and still we have wasted rails all over South Jersey.

So really, the question now becomes: what excuse have you, NJ Transit, to not provide service?


rae said...

My guess is that you will love the new blog by the old head. If it ever gets off the ground. You guys can commiserate all over the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

As a resident of South Jersey, THANK YOU!!!!! I began wondering if others saw our plight