Save the Dinky Founder Receives NJ “Advocate for Rail Transit” Award

The Save the Dinky booth at Communiversity. File photo.
The Save the Dinky booth at Communiversity. File photo.

The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers has named Princeton resident Anita Garoniak the 2015 Arthur L. Reuben Advocate for Rail Transit for her efforts to save and strengthen Princeton Dinky train service.

Garoniak is the founder of the local group Save the Dinky.

“If our 35 years of rail advocacy has taught us anything, it’s that advocacy is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who lack patience and determination,” said Len Resto, president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers. “There are always hard-fought battles to be won, and multitudes of reasons why not to build something, or in Princeton’s case, preserve something both of historic value and of necessity to the community. We also learn that sometimes, despite the best of efforts, what we seek to attain is not realized.”

Garoniak, along with several other Princeton residents, fought unsuccessfully to keep Princeton University from moving the Dinky station about 460 feet south of the former University Place location. The station was moved to Alexander Street, and ridership has decreased since the move.

“Anita Garoniak is a true advocate in every sense of the word. She saw an injustice and tried with all her heart and soul to right that wrong by founding Save the Dinky and organizing like-minded citizens of Princeton into a strong group to fight the entrenched bureaucracies of Princeton University and New Jersey Transit,” Resto said. “Trying to preserve the beautiful Princeton Rail station, a landmarked piece of history, was a daunting task, as was trying to prevent the moving of the station facilities to an inconvenient location.”

The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers participated in the efforts to keep the station where it was, even though the group says it knew chances of a victory were slim.

“We realized going in that the deck was totally stacked against the good citizens of Princeton by both the University, and by the Governor, whom we felt had a conflict of interest, being simultaneously on the University Board and, as Governor, the titular head of New Jersey Transit,” Resto said.

The former train station on University Place will be turned into a restaurant and cafe. Princeton University has not announced who run the eateries yet.

13 Responses

  • To say this individual, or this small group of anti-development diehards, represented the community is really outlandish. Hardly anyone joined the suit, contributed to the funding or even joined the Facebook page. The move was minimal — and I speak as a commuter — and provides incredibly better amenities. The old station hasn’t been open for perhaps a decade. We now have a new station (lovely) that is climate controlled. The adjacent convenience store is a major upgrade in every respect, including the bathroom. The delay from this major improvement for the community is embarrassing and very sad. And the decline in ridership is not necessarily from the move — I believe it’s because of the disruption of the construction, which continues, coupled with the opening of more parking at Princeton Junction. The move, the renovation and repurposing of the old stations, the new traffic flow, the new arts buildings .. all are things we should be proud of, and things the next generation will embrace and cherish. If they read about the delaying tactics and futile lawsuits, they’ll shake their head in wonder.

    • This group delayed nothing. In fact, the University’s application went through the legally prescribed, normal planning process with no extra steps and no unusual delays.

        • I am quite certain of the facts, my dear. Why don’t you cite an example of a delay that was caused by this group?

          Counter accusation: I know a commuter, and you are no commuter. You would not be liking the “improvement” if you were.

  • A big waste of taxpayer $$$$ pursuing this protracted, reflexive anti-change litigation for a difference of less than 1/10 mile–or even the 1/7 mile Garoniak claims below. The arts center will be a big community and regional asset. And it will be a blessing to have great new restaurant right near the theater! I and thousands of other theater-goers look forward to it.

    • The university’s arts campus is not for the public. Four minutes travel time (or more, if you count the new trek from the parking lot to the train) involuntarily added to a daily commute is only trivial when it’s not your four minutes.

  • Dinky ridership is down but the free Tiger PaWW bus that serves the same route more than makes up the difference. And P.U. has expanded other free bus routes that serve more of Princeton.

    • The free PAWW shuttle to the train station was discontinued after the new permanent station was opened last Nov.

      • Good point. If construction ever ends I hope ridership recovers. Maybe someday we’ll get a 1-seat ride to the Junction from near most of the homes in Princeton. In the meantime at least Junction parking has improved.

    • Congratulations! I hope it’s something you can frame!

      This should become a case study in local corruption. It’s what happens when the members of a Town Council and local Planning Board become too enamored or too intimidated by a powerful local institution and then act against the public interest.

    • Anita, THANK YOU for all your hard, persistent work! Award is well deserved. Things did not go the right way, but you represented the citizens of the town above and beyond. If you ever think of running for local office, you have my vote!

      • Anita didn’t represent me, nor did she represent most of Princeton. The group was small, vocal and not supported by more than 100 people. I hope I have a chance to vote against this unfortunate delay in progress, which is unfolding and incredible.

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