The plans unveiled by Princeton University at last week’s Princeton Regional Planning Board hearing made it abundantly clear that the Dinky train line to the historic train station terminus does not interfere with the construction of a single building for the Arts Complex. The University nevertheless directed its experts long ago to design plans to move the Dinky terminus a football field and a half (460 feet) farther away from Princeton’s town center. In fact, the Arts complex could have been built (or largely built) by now, with the Dinky terminus remaining safe, exactly where it is—if the win-win approach long recommended by the community had been embraced by the University.
Study after study shows that moving transit farther from town centers leads to reductions in ridership and so often ends in the eventual demise of the entire train line. Also, preserving the Dinky line to its current terminus would save this historic gateway to Princeton, which has been on state and national registers of historic places for nearly three decades. It could operate as a cafe as well as the station it once was.
In meeting after meeting during more than five years that the University has promoted its Arts and Transit plan, most of the public has supported the arts component while simultaneously voicing serious objections to its transit component that has shortcomings and risks that could easily be corrected in cost efficient ways. Public groups have shown time and again how to address these challenges creatively, with expert inputs, so that the Dinky terminus would not have to be moved. Yet not a single good idea from the public has been embraced by the University with respect to the Dinky transit corridor.
Having much respect for Princeton University, I am disappointed in its treating so cavalierly its community neighbors who have had such a long time collective interest and daily dependence on the Dinky train, a rare passenger transit line that other communities have lost and yearn to have back again. The Dinky has been a beloved public resource for more than 100 years, shared by the entire community including University faculty, students and staff. It is our link to the Northeast corridor and to the whole world.
The plan to move the Dinky terminus farther away from the town center is ill conceived and will place our transit corridor unnecessarily in jeopardy. We deserve better stewardship of our Dinky train and historic station, precious community resources. It is not too late for the University to recognize the public interest in our transit corridor over such a long period and to assimilate the well-founded wishes of the community rather than behaving as the only fountain of knowledge about this transit corridor.
William S. Moody