Princeton Council to consider cutting FreeB routes to Dinky station tonight

Princeton commuters who depend on the FreeB to get them to the Dinky station may have to adjust their schedules or find another way to get there depending on what action the Princeton Council takes tonight at the 7 p.m. public meeting at the municipal building.

The council is slated to cut more than half of the weekday FreeB commuter routes to and from the Dinky train station.

Instead of seven trips during weekday morning commuting hours, only two would be offered, along with an added mid-morning trip. In the evening, seven return trips from the Dinky station would be reduced to three trips.

A neighborhood loop runs between Elm Court, downtown, the Princeton Shopping Center and Bunn Drive between about 9:40 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, with six trips in each direction. Officials say cutting the commuter FreeB would enable the town to expand neighborhood FreeB service.

The buses can seat 18 to 20 people. In a document about the switch, officials list the commuter buses as having an average of 3 passengers per trip, while the neighborhood route during the day is listed as having an average of 13 passengers. (It appears there is an error in the presentation document, which lists the average number of trips per day for the neighborhood route as 79 trips. The FreeB neighborhood route offers 12 trips a day, meaning the average number of passengers would be 6.58 if the 79 trips figure is correct. It could be the figure was meant to be 79 round trips.)

A chart shows that neighborhood route ridership has increased from 20,000 weekday trips per year to just over 25,000 trips per year. Commuter route ridership has decreased from about 12,000 trips per year at the peak before the old Dinky station closed to just under 10,000 trips per year, according to a second chart. The chart shows the FreeB ridership climbing in 2013 and 2013 when the old Dinky station was replaced by buses and then a temporary station. After the permanent station opened, the FreeB commuter ridership gradually dropped.

FreeB critics say ridership has suffered due to a lack of publicity and clear, convenient information about the schedule and stops.

“Save the Dinky is concerned that the FreeB service hasn’t been well-publicized, including service to the Dinky, meaning that some Dinky routes have not been well used,” said Anita Groniak of the citizen group Save the Dinky. “If people aren’t aware of the service, they are not going to use it”

Garoniak said her group is also concerned that ridership is down on the Dinky, and says the town and Princeton University need to live up to promises made in a memorandum of understanding several years ago to promote Dinky ridership.
“We hope that commuters and others in the community who would like reliable public transit to the Dinky will show up at council meetings to voice their interest and their concerns,” Garoniak said.