At the root of the issue is Princeton University’s plan to develop an arts and transit district around McCarter Theater and the current location of the Dinky station. In its present form, the $400 million arts center proposal for the western edge of the Princeton campus calls for moving the Dinky 460 feet south. The University promises a new station with better services and easier accessibility.
The commissioner of the state Department of Transportation has recently expressed support for the proposal. But many community members are up in arms over the proposal to move the station farther from the center of town.
Opened in 1863, the Dinky, or PJ&B (Princeton Junction and back), travels a four-minute, 2.7-mile stretch of track between Princeton Junction and Princeton – the shortest regularly scheduled commuter rail trip in the United States. The train is arguably the most storied and idiosyncratic pieces of the NJ Transit network.
Assemblyman Gusciora asked why the arts district couldn’t be built around the Dinky station. Directing the dilemma to “some of the brightest minds in the world — the students and professors at Princeton University,” Assemblyman Gusciora said that he is “confident (they) can figure out some plan to incorporate the existing Dinky station into the arts center without an unnecessary move.”
As the Trenton times noted, “It’s an idea well worth considering as plans for the university’s expansion solidify and the Regional Planning Board of Princeton has called on NJ Transit to continue and improve the Dinky rail service.”
Assemblyman Gusciora and the Trenton Times wonder why improving the Dinky and building the arts district are linked. “There shouldn’t be a threat to improving the much beloved Dinky station if the arts proposal doesn’t go through as it is now proposed,” Gusciora said.
Yet James Simpson, the head of the Transportation Department, has said the arts center proposal and the improvements to the Dinky station are inextricably linked. And university officials have reiterated that the Dinky must be moved for their overall plan for the arts and transit neighborhood to work.
The Regional Planning Board of Princeton also expressed its unanimous support for the Dinky at its December 15 meeting, voting in favor of continued and improved rail service between Princeton and Princeton Junction. However, the board did not take a specific position on where the Dinky station in downtown Princeton should be located. The board’s resolution states that “because the location of the Dinky station is of concern to the Princeton community, all aspects of the current location should be weighed against any proposed changes at duly noticed public meetings before any conclusion is reached.”
Next month, Princeton Township and Borough officials will hold a public meeting where university officials will discuss plans for the arts neighborhood. Planning board members will also be invited.
On the Move readers, what do you think about moving the Dinky? We want to hear from you!