Princeton Transitway

Princeton Transitway

What is it?

  • The Princeton Transitway Study is a concept-level review of NJ TRANSIT’s Princeton Branch that will help direct the future of transit service along this corridor. The study will evaluate existing conditions and estimate future demand, considering planned developments, such as the expansion of Princeton University, as well as how new and emerging transportation technologies and other trends are changing how and when people want to travel. 
  • This study also presents the opportunity to evaluate the potential for the corridor to become a multi-modal backbone that could be used to improve local and regional connections for bus and rail transit, as well as pedestrian, bicycle, and other micromobility modes. A potential extension of service into Downtown Princeton and the potential to add new stops along the corridor will also be evaluated.  

New transportation technologies and the role of the corridor will be evaluated within the context of the following preliminary alternatives. It should be noted that the alternatives may evolve as the project progresses.

  • Alternative 1: A roadway with embedded rail that can support both rail and rubber-tired transit vehicles. 
  • Alternative 2: A stand-alone rail corridor with a parallel roadway for rubber-tired tram and/or bus service. 
  • Alternative 3: A roadway with a guideway that could support a rubber-tired tram and buses.
  • Alternative 4: A no build option that continues to use the existing Arrow III cars or similar rail vehicle. No new stations would be considered under this alternative. 

The study will conclude with the selection of an initially preferred alternative that would improve the quality, reliability, and frequency of service on the Princeton Branch to meet the needs of the surrounding community now and in the future. The initially preferred alternative could then be advanced for further study and design. 

Why now?

Rail service on the Princeton Branch has provided an important transportation link between Princeton and Princeton Junction stations for over 150 years. However, NJ TRANSIT has reached an important crossroads for the service, necessitating a study of the corridor to address the following existing and future anticipated needs:  

  • Aging rail vehicles. The vehicles that are used on the Princeton Branch, as well as other rail corridors, are 43 years old and will soon be replaced with high-capacity, modern, multilevel vehicles systemwide.  However, a minimum of three (3) vehicles are required to make up a train consist, which will present significant operational and efficiency challenges on the short Princeton Branch. 
  • Declining ridership. Ridership on the Princeton Branch has declined from 1,095 average weekday boardings in 2009 to 515 in 2019.  This is likely the result of serval combined factors, including limited service frequency, service reliability issues due to the age of the rail vehicles, and the availability of parking at the Princeton Junction station. 
  • Changing demands for transportation. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed travel patterns and will likely have a longer-term impact on working from home. Therefore, NJ TRANSIT must plan to respond to emergent needs now and into the future and ensure a more robust and flexible system that can be scaled to meet changing demands. 
  • New demand along the corridor. With development planned by Princeton University and transit-oriented development in West Windsor, transit demand is anticipated to increase. This growth will require more efficient connections to the Northeast Corridor, as well as the potential for new stops along the corridor to serve the new developments. 

What is the study area?

The primary study area includes the Princeton Branch corridor between the Princeton Station and Princeton Junction Station, shown in yellow in the map below. Concept plans will be prepared for alternatives that fall within this study area. In addition to looking at alternatives for the Princeton Branch, the study will also assess opportunities to improve connections to other modes, including bus, pedestrian, bicycle, and other micromobility modes. These connections will be evaluated within the multi-modal connectivity study area, defined in the green line on the map.

What have we heard?

As part of the Study, NJ TRANSIT conducted a survey between May 24th and June 7th, 2021 to learn more about the perceived importance of different challenges and opportunities for the Dinky. We received over 1300 responses! 
More frequent service, on a schedule and Improved access to downtown Princeton and other key locations were identified as the most important opportunities. As the team works to develop alternatives, these priorities will be strongly considered.

What is the timeline of the study?

The Princeton Transitway Study will take approximately one year to complete and is anticipated to conclude in early 2022. However, there are important milestones planned throughout the project, all of which will involve stakeholder and community outreach and coordination. 

How can I get involved?

We need your feedback to help ensure that that final plan responds to the needs of the community. We will be holding virtual meetings with agency and municipal stakeholders, an advisory committee, and the community throughout the project. We want you to share your input on future mobility in the Princeton area. For updates regarding project status, upcoming meetings, surveys, and other news please:

  • Follow us on social media:
    • Facebook.com/NJTRANSIT
    • Twitter.com/NJTRANSIT 
  • Sign up for updates or leave a comment here.

Project materials

Download the Princeton Transitway Study Presentation here.

Download the Fact Sheet here.

Download Frequently Asked Questions here.