The Princeton Council is considering reducing the FreeB shuttle service to the Dinky train station and increasing neighborhood route service instead. FreeB commuter service would be reduced from six trips to two trips in the morning.
Officials discussed the proposed changes at the governing body’s public meeting on Monday night.
The Princeton Public Transit Advisory Committee is advocating for the scheduling shakeup, one that some commuters and Dinky train advocates oppose. The plan, which was presented by advisory committee chairwoman Fay Reiter, calls for additional early and late services on FreeB neighborhood routes to help alleviate the capacity issues that exist on those shuttles, she said. Increased service on that front will come at the expense of the FreeB’s commuter route, which averages roughly a third of the ridership that the neighborhood routes typically get, she said.
“One thing we’ve learned as the years have gone by is that our greatest market (for the FreeB) is the affordable housing units and people who don’t have cars,” said Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller. “Most people who have cars will just drive (to work).”
Councilman Tim Quinn said that in addition to changing the schedule, Princeton needs to do a better job making the public aware of existing transportation options. In addition to calling current marketing efforts “a frustration,” Quinn also mentioned the necessity of public outreach in light of the Dinky’s declining ridership.
“People are afraid that if Dinky numbers go down to a certain point, New Jersey Transit is just going to pull the plug,” Quinn said.
While the extra FreeB service could make it easier for people to move around Princeton, some residents worry that changes to the FreeB route would lead to a loss in ridership for New Jersey Transit and prompt the state-run transportation service to end the bus service in Princeton.
Princeton resident Robert Jackson takes New Jersey Transit-operated buses from his home in Princeton Community Village, an affordable housing complex on Bunn Drive, to Trenton, where he works as a technical assistant for the state. The 606 bus line is convenient, stopping right near his house at an early enough hour to get him to work on time, he said.
“They may either cut some of the trips (on the 606) or eliminate service altogether and I don’t want them to do that,” Jackson said. “New Jersey Transit may say ‘hey, Princeton FreeB is taking out ridership, why should we continue going there when there’s no ridership?’”
Jackson said people without cars depend on New Jersey Transit buses to go to WalMart, Quakerbridge Mall or even to Trenton. “Not everyone wants to stay in Princeton…and I just hope what I have to say is considered,” Jackson told the council.
Resident Kip Cherry called a move to reduce FreeB service to the Dinky station a major step backwards that would lead to a further decline in Dinky ridership. She said the commuter service has been poorly publicized and until a new bus was purchased, there were reliability problems that discourages commuters from taking the FreeB.
Cherry added that the municipality and Princeton University made a commitment in a memorandum of understanding to promote Dink ridership. The town should be promoting the FreeB commuter route looking for ways to improve the schedule to meet express trains to New York City instead of contemplating cutting service, she said.
“The town, with it long-term commitment to promoting mass transit to reduce congestion and emissions, and it’s recent pledge to support the Paris Accords, should not be stepping back from supporting the FreeB’s express service for commuters,” Cherry said. “It should be promoting that service with fanfare. And lastly, as we arrive finally at the opening of the Lewis Center and the removal of construction barriers, again, in accordance with the MOU, we should be promoting the heck out of the FreeB and Dinky, not reducing express service for commuters.”
Other Princeton Council meeting items of interest:
- Police Chief Nicholas Sutter attended Monday’s council meeting to give a report on the department’s most recent report on the use of force. There were six uses of force involving 11 officers, all of which were reported as “minor.” Four involved people that were either drunk or had a mental disorder, Sutter said, while two involved those who resisted arrest.
- Princeton resident Henry Singer offered comments at the meeting about signs supporting the Princeton Public Schools around town. He contented that the signs, which praise PPS for its diversity and friendliness, purposely exclude the Princeton Charter School, which is also a public school. “I think there’s a message I there that amounts in my opinion to bullying,” Singer said. Mayor Liz Lempert responded by saying that the signs around town are mostly on private property and are protected by the First Amendment.
- The township plans to send out third-quarter tax bills by this Wednesday. According to the township website, the due date for these bills is August 1 and the grace period for payment has been extended to August 21. The tax bills are being sent out late because of changes in the state’s funding for schools.