Saturday, July 31, 2010

High Platform Anxiety

A recent editorial in the Record complained about the cost of building a high level platform in Ridgewood and the luxurious expenses involved in the $24 million makeover of the station.

Ridgewood's station is a crown jewel in the NJ Transit's system, and the agency is finally playing catchup on major repairs and upgrades to one of its major stations on the Bergen/Main line - it's the busiest on those lines after Hoboken and Secaucus.

The concern over why the high level platform is being built there and not at Hoboken.

I think Ridgewood's a bad example.

Plauderville would be a much more appropriate example. It gets far fewer patrons than Ridgewood or Radburn, and yet it's getting two high level platforms in a major renovation and expansion of the station there.

Yet a few years back Radburn received only a canopy on the inbound tracks that cannot accommodate a high level platform, even though it is one of the busier stations on the system. The station in Radburn can more than accommodate a 10-car platform (more than sufficient to handle current and any future expansion of ridership on NJ Transit). Yet, there's no plans to do so now that the canopy was installed - the height of shortsightedness (and Radburn lackes even the manual assist equipment to provide disabled riders with access to the trains).

High level platforms not only provide ADA compliance but they are instrumental in reducing dwell time at stations since they allow commuters to board at all the exits on the trains (middle and end doors) and do not require commuters to climb aboard.

The tight budget constraints in NJ Transit and the need to make certain upgrades and system improvements appear to be done without an eye to maximizing the effect of those changes. Installing high level platforms at Hoboken would not require the kind of changes that NJ Transit claims since the trains themselves do not need to be adjusted in height - some signage and platform equipment would - a far lesser expense that would be more than made up by reductions in liability due to falls and injuries by commuters embarking and disembarking trains.

With such limited capital funds, the agency must maximize its effect for the most number of people. It must also do so with an eye towards efficiency, and NJ Transit has repeatedly fallen short on this.

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