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New Light Rail Vehicles to Begin Service August 27

CONTACT: Michael Klufas (973-491-7078)

NEWARK, NJ, August 24, 2001 -- They have carried millions of passengers millions of miles since making their debut in the Newark City Subway on January 8, 1954. But after 47 years of continual service -- through sub-zero temperatures and sweltering mid-summer days, through blizzards, rainstorms, and ice storms -- the City Subway’s Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) cars took their final passenger trips today.

The PCCs were formally retired from service during a midday ceremony at Branch Brook Park Station (formerly Franklin Avenue Station) by NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Jeffrey A. Warsh, a host of elected officials, current and former Newark City Subway employees, customers and trolley enthusiasts.

"While we are saddened to see these magnificent machines retired, customers should be encouraged by the introduction of the new light rail vehicles, which give them more seating, a smoother ride and year-round climate-control," said NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman and State Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein. "The new light rail vehicles are among the revolutionary changes that will make the Newark City Subway a popular way to travel into downtown Newark for many years into the future."

"These valiant PCC cars are rolling steel witnesses to a half-century of New Jersey’s history, its development, its culture," said Warsh. "Once a vital cog in a vast system of streetcars, the PCCs persevered during the lean times and have turned the corner into the new mass transit renaissance."

Warsh added: "Still, today's send-off is by no means the end for these vehicles -- it is the beginning of their future. We look forward to donating three PCC cars to the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center -- New Jersey's Hall of Fame for mass transportation vehicles -- and finding new homes for the rest of the PCCs right here in the Garden State, where they can continue to carry passengers, serve and create economic development, and enhance the overall quality of life. Stay tuned.”

Regular revenue service continued before and after the retirement ceremony until approximately 7:30 p.m. Customers and trolley enthusiasts then enjoyed commemorative last rides free of charge for approximately two hours. Special commemorative items and materials were also available, including commemorative coins, plaques, t-shirts, posters, hats and pins. All these items remain on sale at NJ TRANSIT's Transit Shoppe, which can be accessed through the Corporation’s website at

Public Service Coordinated Transport -- NJ TRANSIT’s predecessor -- bought 30 PCC cars in 1953 from Twin Cities Rapid Transit (Minneapolis/St. Paul) in Minnesota. After several months of preparatory work -- including construction of the Franklin Avenue loop -- PCC car number 21 was the first to enter revenue service on January 8, 1954. Within one month, all 30 cars were in service. The "new" cars attracted so many new customers that, by March 1954, Public Service began operating one trip per minute during rush hours. Currently, NJ TRANSIT PCCs operate every two minutes during morning and afternoon peak periods.

Of the 30 PCC cars purchased in 1953, NJ TRANSIT retains 24 today. Two were sold in November 1977 to the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority in Ohio, where they remained in service until their retirement in the 1980s. Four others were scrapped for parts. No PCC car has been lost because of an accident since the late 1970s, when contractors digging foundations for the headquarters of PSE&G -- Public Service’s successor -- broke through the roof of the Cedar Street tunnel, where two PCC cars were parked. This tunnel led from the City Subway to the Public Service Terminal, which opened in the basement of the Public Service building in 1916.

When PCC car service began, they were painted in the gray and blue colors of Public Service Coordinated Transport -- a color scheme revived on one of the 24 remaining cars this week. In 1976, the PCCs were painted red, white and blue as part of the United States' bicentennial celebration. They remained in those colors until NJ TRANSIT took over operations in October 1980. The PCCs were renovated -- along with the Newark City Subway -- as part of the City Subway's 50th anniversary celebration in 1985. In 1999, the final major modification of the PCC cars took place when pantographs were added to replace trolley poles, connecting the cars with overhead electrical power. This installation allowed PCCs to continue operating while work to replace them with LRVs went forward.

PCC cars have continued to operate since the Newark City Subway system renovation and modernization began in spring 1999. Much of the work was done during evenings and weekend closures. Only during one two-week period in late summer, 1999 was the City Subway closed continuously on weekdays. It was during this period that the overhead catenary system -- which provides power to the PCC cars and the pantographs atop the PCC cars -- was installed.

The PCC cars have one operator position and require loop tracks at each end of the Newark City Subway. The Franklin Avenue loop will be removed after the PCCs are taken out of service.

Starting Monday, August 27, modern light rail vehicles (LRVs) will replace the PCCs. Almost identical to those operating on Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, LRVs have fully enclosed operator booths at each end, allowing them to change direction as needed and making single-track operation possible. In addition, LRVs can carry up to 188 people (68 seated) -- more than twice as many as the PCCs -- are air-conditioned and include modern safety, propulsion and public address systems. In addition, LRVs have four doors on each side, allowing for faster boarding.

The new LRVs -- made by Kinkisharyo of Japan -- are just one component of the $188 million rehabilitation of the Newark City Subway. The current system -- which runs 4.3 miles between Newark Penn Station and Branch Brook Park Station (formerly Franklin Avenue Station) -- has undergone extensive track and signal renovation. In addition, Newark Penn and Washington Street stations will become fully accessible with the construction of elevators and ramps. Two other stations -- Orange Street and Branch Brook Park -- have received new, fully accessible platforms. All four stations are considered key stations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are required to be made fully accessible.

Late this fall, the Newark City Subway will be extended one mile with the opening of two new stations -- Silver Lake Station in Belleville and Grove Street Station in Bloomfield.

Grove Street Station is adjacent to the new Vehicle Base Facility (VBF), where LRVs will be stored. When LRV service begins Monday, light rail vehicles will operate from the VBF to Branch Brook Park at the start of each weekday morning. At the end of the service day, the LRVs will return to the VBF for cleaning and light maintenance. Major maintenance and overhauls will also be performed at the VBF, which is replacing a small, antiquated facility at Newark Penn Station. That facility will be modified to handle light maintenance and cleaning duties.

The Newark City Subway's fare collection procedures will not change with the introduction of new light rail vehicles. NJ TRANSIT will continue to utilize the Proof of Payment (POP) fare collection system, which allows riders to quickly and easily board the LRVs and eliminates waiting lines and dwell times at stations. Customers purchase their tickets at ticket vending machines (TVMs) on station platforms and have them dated and time-stamped at nearby validator machines before boarding an LRV. Fare inspectors may request to see customers' tickets before boarding or after alighting; they may also randomly board LRVs to see if passengers are carrying valid tickets. In most instances, passengers without tickets can be issued a summons with a maximum fine of $100. Repeat offenders may be subject to criminal theft of services charges.

The Newark City Subway extension will open after work to remove the Franklin Avenue loop and realign tracks is completed. Until then, substitute bus service will continue on weekends -- including Labor Day weekend -- so contractors can have access to the system. When the extension opens, customers who currently use the Heller Parkway Station will be directed to the nearby Branch Brook Park Station.

The total cost of the Newark City Subway extension and rehabilitation is $188 million and includes:

  • $55 million for 16 light rail vehicles.
  • $25 million for power, signal and track rehabilitation on the current Newark City Subway segment.
  • $30 million for accessibility improvements and modernization at Newark Penn, Washington and Orange Street stations.
  • $78 million for construction of the one-mile extension into Belleville and Bloomfield, including the new Vehicle Base Facility.

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing bus, rail and light rail services for 384,000 daily commuters on 240 bus routes, two light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 162 rail stations, 26 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.