Murphy Announces Resumption of Raritan Valley Line Off-Peak One-Seat Service

Governor Phil Murphy this morning inWestfield announced the service restoration of off peak one-seat rides on NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line.

The off peak rides will resume on Nov. 4th, the Governor said.

Murphy made a point of thanking U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7), who stood with the governor in front of a crowd that included the man who wants Malinowski’s seat: Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21).

“Today’s announcement is a long-time coming,” Murphy said. “Riders on the Raritan Valley Line will see an improvement in their commute.”

Malinowski noted the need for the Gateway Tunnel Project.

“Let’s get some money for the tunnel… Meanwhile, we’ve got to do something for the commuters struggling now,” said the congressman.

Over the summer, Kean had griped about lack of information about restoration.

“I’m extremely disappointed that Raritan Valley Line commuters have not been given any kind of update on the restoration of direct service to Manhattan,” Kean said in August. “After months of disruption to their lives and inadequate communication from both the Governor and New Jersey Transit, our commuters deserve solid answers on when they should expect to have their one-seat ride again.”

Today, Kean took credit for this morning’s announcement here.

But Murphy happily contextualized the event, taking a crack at his predecessor, Governor Chris Christie, who canceled the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel, which clogged train line traffic and contributed to the mess.

“We’re still digging out from that decision,” the governor groaned.

As part of the intra-party rivalry without end, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) has been propping up old foe turned useful Murphy cudgel Kean, Jr., particularly on NJ TRANSIT by putting him on the committee. Malinowski and his team aren’t appreciative of that. So today was an opportunity for the Governor to support Malinowski on NJ TRANSIT by letting him play a big role “and counter Sweeney,” a devious source noted. Two self-proclaimed progressives who didn’t climb hand over hand through party organizational furnaces to get to their respective seats of power, Murphy and Malinowski also have naturally overlapping bases.

Mayors from towns on the Raritan Valley Line acknowwledged the good news from Governor Murphy when he announced restoration of the off-peak midtown direct trains beginning November 7th.

The Raritan Valley Line Mayors’ Alliance, a bipartisan organization of 32 mayors, held rallies with commuters, met with representatives from the Governor’s office and Malinowski, State legislators and NJ Transit since the off-peak service was suspended in 2018. Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, who is a co-chair of the RVL Mayors, thanked the Governor for recognizing that the 23,000 RVL commuters deserve some relief. “This action is important and provides an option for commuters but we will continue making the case for direct train service during peak rush hours and weekend. Ridership on RVL continues to grow and in fact, has the third highest ridership (excluding Northeast Corridor) on the NJ Transit system” she said.

The RVL Mayors’ Alliance report “Making the Case for a One-Seat Ride” compares ridership and direct train services of five train lines. RVL, which falls in the middle, is the only line with zero direct trains. “We are asking for equitable, reliable service for our constituents,” Mahr added.

Bound Brook Mayor Bob Fazen, also a co-chair, emphasized the lack of one-seat rides into NY Penn has a negative impact on towns. “It affects home values and ability to attract investment and business. Realtors tell us that home buyers are looking elsewhere for towns with midtown direct trains,” said Mayor Fazen. “This is particularly frustrating because of the significant Transit-Oriented Development along the RVL,” he added.

RVL Mayors held two rallies at Newark Penn Station in recent months and collected hundreds of signatures from commuters. Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle, who was unable to attend this morning’s announcement, acknowledged the tremendous support from the public. “You spoke out, rallied with us, signed petitions and got attention for the Raritan Valley Line. We pledge to continue working on your behalf,” said Mayor Brindle, “and remain committed to finding solutions that improve service.”

The full release from the Governor’s Office:

Governor Murphy and Congressman Malinowski, alongside state and local officials, today announced NJ TRANSIT will resume weekday off-peak, one-seat Raritan Valley Line (RVL) train service to NY Penn Station beginning Monday, November 4th.
“After the Christie Administration left Positive Train Control implementation to languish on the backburner leading to service cuts on the Raritan Valley Line, our Administration has worked diligently to ensure that our commuters get the service and safety they deserve,” said Governor Murphy. “With NJ TRANSIT’s completion of an important phase of that project, RVL riders, who rely on NJ TRANSIT every day to get to and from work, have waited long enough for this service restoration. I’m proud to announce today that we will resume NJ TRANSIT’s off-peak, one-seat rides to NY Penn Station on the RVL and make good on our promise to provide more reliable service for customers in these communities.”
“It’s wrong that Raritan Valley line passengers had no one seat ride service to New York, despite the line having more daily riders than other New Jersey Transit lines whose trains go straight through to the city,” said Congressman Tom Malinowski. “The restoration of off-peak one seat ride service is a good step forward, and I’m grateful to Governor Murphy for working with my office, as well as with the Raritan Valley Line Mayor’s Alliance and the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, to make it happen. We will keep pushing for rush hour service as well.”
“We are pleased to be able to the restore the off-peak one-seat ride on the Raritan Valley Line following the advancement of important safety improvements,” said Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “We appreciate our customers’ patience during this time and remain committed to providing reliable and safe transportation options for all New Jerseyans.”
“We know how important this service is to our customers on the Raritan Valley Line, and we couldn’t be more pleased to make this announcement,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin Corbett. “We thank our customers for their patience and understanding while we worked to restore weekday off-peak, one-seat ride service as soon as we could. This restoration is another example of our continued commitment to an improved customer experience for all of our customers.” ​
Today’s news is a positive step in the right direction for all of the communities that sit on the Raritan Valley Line,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari. “One seat ride is critical for the continued economic growth of our region.  I want to applaud all who have given their time to make the Raritan Valley Line a more commuter friendly method of transit. I am thrilled that we have achieved this vital first step.”
“This is exciting, long-awaited news for our community members who rely on the Raritan Valley Line’s off-peak one-seat ride both personally and professionally,” said Assemblyman Roy Freiman. “As one of the most convenient ways to get into Manhattan, this line has been a staple in the lives of our residents and I am thrilled to see its return. I applaud my colleagues and community who were constant advocates for this line’s return, and while there is still more work to be done for commuters who rely on public transportation on a daily basis, I am thrilled for those who will no longer be inconvenienced by the RVL suspension.”
“More than 23,000 residents take the Raritan Valley line trains everyday,” said Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr. “We are here today because of the on-going collaboration between the Governor’s office, Congressional and State legislators, mayors, and county officials, all working together for the very one important constituent that we all share, which is the commuter.”
The service was temporarily suspended in September 2018 as NJ TRANSIT continued its installation of Positive Train Control equipment on its rail fleet.
Based on increased availability of dual-mode locomotives, all five midday one-seat RVL round-trips that operated prior to September 2018 will be restored on November 4th, and three of the four evening round trips will be restored. The final evening round trip – which departed Raritan at 9:53 p.m. and departed New York at 12:08 a.m. – will not be restored due to the need to inspect and prepare dual-powered trains for the next morning’s service. However, the current 9:53 p.m. departure from Raritan will operate 16 minutes later, reducing the connecting time at Newark for New York-bound customers from 24 minutes to eight minutes. Returning from New York, customers will continue to use Train 3201 (departing at 12:05 a.m.) to connect with Train 5401 at Newark, with a seven minute connection time.

 

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