The smell of fresh varnish and new paint filled the air at the Dinky station this morning as officials celebrated the reopening of the station waiting room on the Princeton University campus.
For five hours every weekday morning, the waiting room will be open to commuters so they can warm up, rest their feet or use the restroom while they wait for the Dinky train to arrive and shuttle them to their Northeast Corridor connections.
The waiting room is open Monday through Friday form 6 to 11 a.m.
New Jersey Transit officials claim the station has been open from 6 to 9 a.m. since the 1980s, but commuters beg to differ. Some say they have never seen the waiting room open, others say it has only been open occasionally.
At the ceremony today, attended by about two dozen officials and reporters, Princeton University President Bob Durkee recalled how the university bought the station in the 1980s, six years after he became the school’s vice president for public affairs.
The university plans to build a new station about 460 feet south of the existing station to create a second access road for a large parking garage and to make way for its $300 million proposed arts center neighborhood. The old station would remain, but be used for other purposes.
“We hope the day comes in the not too distant future when we move the station a little further from here and this station becomes a restaurant and cafe,” Durkee said.
Some residents oppose the plan to move the station and fear it will hurt Dinky ridership. University officials argue enhancements to the station and arts performances will draw more riders.
The borough and township are reviewing zoning for the proposed arts center and are expected to vote on ordinances for zoning for the area later this month. Borough Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller proposed adding a transit only zone be added to the ordinance so that the existing Dinky right of way is preserved. Her proposal was expected to be discussed at the borough council meeting tonight, but that meeting has been cancelled.
The university signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the township and the borough Monday that includes agreements on improvements to the Dinky station, traffic and transit study funding, and a right of way for future transit such as light rail along Alexander. The opening of the station waiting room was included in the terms of that agreement.
“It’s been a long and contentious road over the last several months, and now it is time to work together to accomplish transit improvements for the entire community,” said Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes. “This is one of them, and we are pleased that the university responded so quickly and reopened the station right away.”
The station waiting room, which is heated, includes long benches, dark wood accents, and what appears to be original light fixtures.
Visitors beware though – the one area in need of improvement is the bathroom, a unisex one with two stalls but no doors, meaning only one person can use it at a time and you need to lock the main bathroom door.