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Princeton University closes historic “Dinky” station

Published: August 30, 2013
PRINCETON, N.J. – This week, NJ Transit stopped passenger service to the “Dinky” train station in the heart of the Princeton University campus, and instituted temporary service at a station 1,200 feet to the south. NJ Transit operates the service between Princeton Junction, where it connects with the Northeast Corridor, and the university campus with electric MU shuttle trains, nicknamed the Dinky.

The university has pushed for curtailment of the Princeton Branch, moving its end point station to facilitate the development of an arts and entertainment complex on former railroad land. The group “Save the Dinky” says relocation of the station stop and abandonment of the historic station will inconvenience rail passengers by adding a further 700 feet to the distance they must navigate from Nassau Street and, in the case of disabled passengers, a further 1,100 feet. The group also contends this is a first step toward abandonment of the branch, with bus rapid transit taking it place. Already, crews have begun removing overhead wire and have dug a large hole in the station’s platform. It will eventually be turned into a restaurant.

The university is compensating with shuttle buses from University Place to Princeton Junction, with a return stop at the temporary station. NJ Transit is also running buses.

Save the Dinky is waiting for an answer to its request for a court order to stay a ruling permitting NJ Transit to abandon public rights in the historic station. NJ Transit and Princeton University have opposed the request, arguing that it was too late, that there was no real harm, and that the Save the Dinky case was not strong.

More information can be found at savethedinky.org.
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Update: After the Princeton Branch ‘Dinky’ passenger terminal waas closed in late August 2013 by Princeton University & NJ Transit, the University began construction work around and through the 1865 right-of-way, including slicing a trench into the platform. Not surprisingly, the historic canopy then collapsed on the afternoon of 19 September 2013 (whereabouts of the fallen timbers and slate roofing is unknown as of this writing).
Philip Craig, You hit the nail right on the head. The magic answer is Gov. Chris Christie. As you remember it was Chris Christie who put the kibosh on the improvement on the Hudson Tunnel. Sounds like another rail hater to me.
As a frequent user of the PJ&B in the 1970's and thereafter, one can only wring hands at the short-sightessness of this downgrade of service. On a smaller scale, it ranks with the destruction of Penn. Station in NYC. When Woodrow Wilson was elected president of the US, the line ran further north, almost to present day Blair arch, from which he departed Princeton to Wash. D.C.
2 stars
"The station fit the 1930's architecture of the campus very well, so it will be missed. I hope some way will be found to maintain the rail service however short the connection becomes."

Good news: (1) The stone station buildings, only one of which was open to the public as a little-used waiting room, will be re-used as a restaurant and a cafe. (2) Rail service will continue to a new station (with a new WaWa) 460 feet downhill from the old one.

"Save the Dinky" did defeat a proposal to use the DInky ROW for BRT, but since then seems to be opposed to any changes at all. The University's side is expressed here:
Fortunately, the dinky is electrified, and steam and utility tunnels already run in excavated area UNDER McCosh Walk. Without disturbing a single building (although one comes close at Spellman College), it is still possible to extend the dinky UNDER McCosh Walk to the foot of Blair Arch. Ths can be accomplished at a cost closer to that of a trench than of even a cut and cover tunnel. Rather than build an underground station at that point one could bore a few hundred feet of tunnel under the steps and on to a new station under Nassau Street at Palmer Square. If Princeton University were listening to its own students, faculty, and neighbors, not to mention planners and architecture department, instead of listening to a turkey of an administrator, it would have extended the PJ&B to Palmer Square long since. Several former governors of NJ of both parties would have leapt aboard this proposal.
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