State and local officials, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and the New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, were on hand to celebrate the start of the new bus line, “The HealthLine”, the first for NJ Transit since 2005. Officials made the maiden trip from Witherspoon Street to the new hospital, where Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu christened the blue bus with a bottle of champagne.
Guadagno praised the project as an example of a positive state, federal and private partnership. “The end result (of the collaboration) is a new bus service that will serve employees, patients and visitors of a vital healthcare facility and other important area destinations, while minimizing the costs to New Jersey taxpayers,” she said.
The new bus line costs $1.50 each way (65 cents for a transfer) or $48 for a monthly pass, and makes stops at the Princeton Shopping Center, Palmer Square, the Dinky train station, the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, and Scotts Corner Road at Ravens Crest Drive in Plansboro. The 655 line provides transfer connections to NJ Transit bus route No. 600 in Plainsboro, and the nos. 605 and 606 in downtown Princeton. It also provides connections to Middlesex County Area Transit (MCAT) Route 6 shuttle service to Jamesburg, as well as Suburban Transit (Coach USA) service that operates along Route 27 in Princeton.
The new hospital is scheduled to open May 22. Bus service to the Plainsboro site on Route 1 runs weekdays. The bus makes a loop every 40 minutes from about 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., and every 75-80 minutes from about 6 p.m. until midnight to accommodate employee shifts at the new hospital. The hospital has offered to provide free bus tickets to lower-income clinic patients who need them.
“This new bus route provides an important east-west transit connection that will help offer relief along the busy Route 1,” NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson said. “By connecting residents with medical centers, places of employment and shopping destinations, NJ Transit is making it easier and more convenient for people to conduct life’s daily business.”
Funding for the new bus route is being provided through a public-private partnership. NJ Transit is providing the vehicles and operating the service, and has received federal funding in the form of grants through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. Princeton HealthCare Systems, Princeton University, Middlesex County and the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association are also providing funding.
Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes, who was involved in discussions about bus service to the hospital, applauded Princeton HealthCare and Princeton University for offering their financial support for the bus line.
“The hospital’s move out of town presented us with a unique transportation challenge: how can we get Princeton-based patients and hospital employees to the new facility if they currently walk and have no access to a vehicle? Or even if they do have a car, how can we provide people with more environmentally sustainable transportation options to get where they need to go?” Wilkes said. “That this new bus exists is a testament to what happens when our community works hand-in-hand with its neighbors to solve problems.”