Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The future of the Suzy-Q

It's funny, just last night I was re-reading this post from 2009 on the planned restoration of passenger service on the New York, Susquehanna and Western line from Hackensack to Hawthorne in New Jersey. I was wondering what happened to it, since there have been zero news articles about it since. Since Chris Christie's money tree only bears fruit for highway widenings and mega-malls, I figured that it's not going anywhere unless the pressure gets turned up.

This morning, though, I read that the Morris County Freeholders passed a resolution calling for restoration of service on the Suzy-Q, but west of the area I discussed in 2009. Morris County, in conjunction with Passaic and Sussex Counties, wants to run passenger trains from Hawthorne west to Stockholm, just before the track terminates at the Sparta Junction.

I understand why the Freeholders have framed their study in this way, but it seems pretty obvious to me that the train would continue at least into Paterson, where passengers could transfer to an Erie line train to Hoboken, and probably all the way to Hackensack. If I were the Railroad God, I would extend it north to Port Jervis, south to Andover, and east to Edgewater or Hoboken.

It's sad that Star-Ledger reporter Dan Goldberg seemed completely unaware of plans to reactivate passenger service in Bergen and Passaic counties, which could have been running by now. He could have asked New Jersey Transit officials, or the project's champion, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell.

The section of the railroad west of Hawthorne runs along the boundary between New Jersey's Fifth and Eleventh congressional districts, represented by Republicans Scott Garrett and Rodney Frelinghuysen. Sadly, even though Garrett is a regular rail commuter and Frelinghuysen was once a champion of the Lackawanna Cut-Off, they have both succumbed to Tea Party mania. Frelinghuysen sponsored an amendment to reallocate high-speed rail funds for Midwest flood relief. Garrett has proposed eliminating Federal funding for Amtrak.

At this rate, though, there won't be funds to build more roads in that area, so the NYS&W's revenue will gradually increase. Maybe some day it'll have enough money to restart passenger service on its own.


busplanner said...

The "Suzy Q" west of Hawthorne goes through one of the least densely populated area of North Jersey. It would not seem to me to be a high priority candidate for the expenditure of transit dollars, either capital or operating. (If it ever were built as heavy commuter rail, it could theoretically connect to the existing NJ Transit Main Line in Hawthorne. I suspect that is why those raising it from the dead only mentioned Hawthorne to Stockholm.)

As for Congressman Pascrell's pet light rail line, many of the towns along the right of way opposed it and proposed stations in those towns were deleted from the project. Even with those stations, ridership projections were very low for a project of this nature in such a populated area, mainly because the light rail corridor was not a good match for travel patterns (origins and destinations of those currently living and working in the region). Without those stations, ridership projections were extremely low.

Alon Levy said...

NJ Transit should first fix the lines in the same area. For the Erie Lines, the best that can be done is to rebuild Secaucus Junction to be a more convenient transfer point to Manhattan; for one, they should remove the internal faregates.