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Letters: Keep 655 Princeton-Plainsboro Bus Route

655busIn response to the agency’s proposal to discontinue the 655 Princeton-Plainsboro bus route, I would like to express my concern on the record that eliminating this service would be disruptive to the Mercer County region and to the Princeton community.

As you may know, at the time of the relocation of the hospital from downtown Princeton to neighboring Plainsboro Township significant concerns were raised, as the proximity of the hospital had always been an important benefit to nearby residents who often times have fewer transportation options, relying upon walking, biking, or public transportation. Thus, the introduction of a new bus route, the 655, was strongly welcomed, as it was seen as an important way to accommodate the employees, patients, and hospital visitors who prior to the move, had been able to access the hospital without a car.

It is my hope that NJ Transit would consider the real hardship termination of this service would have on riders and the barriers to a vital regional medical service it would appear to impose.

I urge you to maintain the 655 Princeton-Plainsboro bus route.

Andrew Koontz

Mr. Koontz is a Mercer County Freeholder.

The NJ Transit hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 21, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m at the Trenton Transit Center, 72 South Clinton Avenue, in Trenton. 

 

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Rider No More

    NJT bus line 655 was designed primarily as a future feeder route for a proposed BRT system, not as a convenient form of transportation as an alternative to reliance on automobiles by employees and patients who need to get to/from the hospital. The 655 is underused because it was poorly planned and with inherent shortcomings that preclude it becoming widely used by the public it otherwise could have served. We need local leaders to listen to citizens, not just pose for photo opportunities on a bus they will never personally again set foot in.

  • Andy

    There is consensus that the 655 is an underused service. For much of the day,
    the bus carries no more passengers than would fit into a car. One reason
    the service has failed to retain passengers is the inefficiency and
    unreliability of the operation. I have observed the bus parked at an unscheduled
    stop outside McDonalds in Plainsboro while the driver took a break. Also, the
    buses frequently run 3-5 minutes early through the Plainsboro loop. On
    occasions, early arrival and late departure (by up to 15 mins) from Princeton
    Shopping Center has been observed to enable drivers to complete a shopping trip
    to Mccaffrey’s store. I have personally complained about the non arrival of the
    evening service when headways are longer and my questions about whether the bus
    ran early or was cut have gone unanswered. This service is unsupervised and
    erratic. There is no accountability and not surprisingly would-be regular
    passengers try it and give up. Half the road time virtually duplicates the 600
    service and I am sure that if the two services were integrated with better
    connections, savings could be made. Continuing with the inefficient operation as
    it is run at present is neither desirable nor viable from the point of view of
    tax payers and users alike.

  • 655

    Tiger Transit doesn’t operate all year and at all times that people need to get from Princeton to the hospital.

  • Nat Bottigheimer

    You’ve pretty much summed it up, Doug.

    The public sector doesn’t always do a good job of linking together the capital costs and operating costs of things.

    So for affordable housing, we look at land or buildings that are affordable for constrained local government budgets, but neglect that to make such places accessible we need to provide all sorts of infrastructure and services (like transit or paratransit) to support the out-of-the-way locations we’ve chosen.

    It might make more economic sense to place public facilities like schools, affordable housing, parks, etc. in places where the land acquisition costs might be higher, but the necessity of paying additional supporting costs may not be as great.

  • Douglas Rubin

    Always appreciate your thoughts Nat. So would you agree that on the scale of priorities:
    1) affordable/develop-able land (given most communities’ restrictions on development, this is critical);
    2) access to the automobiles and ambulances that transport 9x% of hospital patients, caregivers & support staff . . . especially from the “growth market” of the Windsors and western Monmouth;
    3) tax-abatements and local subsidies as available;
    4) proximity of space for satellite physician and laboratory offices ;
    . . .
    X) Transit accessibility for the car-less probably is/was an after-thought?

    European-style gas taxes or a greater consciousness to costs of the automobile (parking, carbon, congestion) might change our approach to higher-density development around town centers where people cluster.
    IMO, it is unfortunate that most voters aren’t yet ready to support.

  • Save the 655

    We need to save this route. I understand that ridership is low. The
    public transportation plan should have the goal of providing incentives
    to change behavior not just serve the status quo of current behavior. If you build a bridge, people will cross the stream, if you don’t build the bridge because no one is waiting by the side of the stream because they did not envision it could be crossed, you will never realize the opportunity. I don’t think the 655 route has been given enough of a chance to mature, to get traction and prove its worth. Sometimes low ridership can be due to the fact that a route has not “matured” to serve the community, maybe it does not run
    frequently enough to attract regular ridership willing to depend on the route, or slight tweaks in bus stop placement or route timing are needed. (for example, at a neighborhood meeting a year or so ago, a couple residents explained how one issue with bus stop placement at the hospital end was difficult for riders to negotiate and the hospital reps at that meeting had been previously completely unaware of how a simple, low/no cost change could support the ridership) I live in the neighborhood served by 655 and fortunately I’m only over to the doctors/hospital about 5 times a year, I’d say half of those times I take the bus and for the other half I don’t because the route is not timed well for the length of appointment or is just not frequent enough. I wonder how well this route currently serves those who live in Princeton and work at the hospital, sometimes in odd or late shift staff positions. I would like to support having those jobs being held by residents of Princeton who may not own or use a car. If we want to encourage smart growth and reduce use of individual
    automobiles, we need to plan and fund public transportation pro-actively
    and not re-actively based on current ridership – we need to build the
    bridge. It would be an appalling result to end up with no regular, low cost reliable public transportation from Princeton to the “Princeton” hospital site.

  • Nat Bottigheimer

    @jim_jenson:disqus Agree that there’s no point funding transit service for essentially symbolic reasons when there’s so much real need that remains unfunded. Disagree that Andrew Koontz’ personal travel choices have anything to do with this (and I don’t know who Andrew Koontz is except that apparently he’s a freeholder).

    It’s important to note that low ridership is not the fault of “transit.” It’s the fault of “us.”

    Transit is often an afterthought in development planning, including the new hospital. It’s not surprising that many people find using transit a difficult option, even if it’s something they WOULD use (whatever their age or income).

    Circuitous bus routes to places that aren’t easy to get to from bus stops, and from which there aren’t many accessible destinations, won’t attract ridership.

    It’s our responsibility as a community — assuming this is a priority of ours — to plan growth that is sensibly accessible to all.

  • Jim Jenson

    Andrew Koontz . . . .who wouldn’t be caught dead waiting to take this bus that goes from the Shopping Center to the Hospital via the Princeton Dinky station.

    Almost no one does. The one’s who know and can, take TigerTransit or get a subsidized taxi.

    Hence NJ Transit’s prudent decision to cut costs on this route and use the money for routes that people (not Andrew) actually use.

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