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Camden / Trenton, New Jersey:
River LINE Light Rail


New Jersey Transit's River LINE (yes, the second word is officially all upper case) extends about 34 miles from Camden (across the Delaware river from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) to Trenton (the state capital). It began regular operation on 14 March 2004, after ceremonies and special trips for VIPs on the day before.

The River LINE runs mostly along a lightly-used freight railroad line that has been upgraded for passenger service with new track and stations. It uses self-propelled diesel-electric articulated cars built by a partnership of Stadler Rail AG and Bombardier Transportation. Similar cars are used on some European branch lines. Therefore one might at first consider this to be a lighter version of the commuter rail lines that NJT also operates.

However, the Stadler/Bombardier cars do not meet U. S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) standards for crashworthiness, and are not allowed to run in mixed traffic with normal railroad trains in the U. S. They must be used either on lines that are separated from the normal railroad system, or during completely separate time periods from normal railroad trains. Therefore, on the River LINE, passenger service operates during the day and early evening, while freight service operates only at night (with some variation on weekends).

Also, the southern end of the River LINE, running through downtown Camden, uses new in-street trackage in the curb lanes of Cooper Street and Delaware Avenue. Therefore, the River LINE is considered to be a light-rail operation similar to those that have been built in many U. S. cities since the 1970s. It is the first light rail line in the U. S. to use on-board diesel-electic power instead of electric power from overhead wire or third rail. A diesel-electric light rail line (the O-Train) has operated in Ottawa, Ontario since 2001.

The River LINE has been rather controversial. It is widely viewed as a political pork-barrel project, the result of southern New Jersey state legislators insisting that New Jersey Transit undertake some kind of major capital project in their area after building the Hudson-Bergen light rail line and other major projects in the northern part of the state. NJT first investigated a different corridor out of Camden that had much better ridership potential, but local opposition killed that project, and so NJT ended up with the more lightly-populated Delaware River corridor.

NJT has projected the initial ridership of the River LINE to be about 5900 trips per day, a very low number for the $1.1 billion construction cost and $18 million annual operating subsidy. The River LINE is being justified as a spur to economic development of the riverfront towns between Camden and Trenton, which have lost much of their traditional manufacturing industry.

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These pictures were taken on 15 March 2004, the second day of regular service.

[picture] A two-car train lays over at the Entertainment Center station in Camden, the southern end of the line. Each car is double-articulated, with the center section housing the diesel-electric generators that power the train.

[picture] A Trenton-bound train rounds the corner from Delaware Avenue to Cooper Street in Camden, with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River in the background.

[picture] A southbound train rolls down Cooper Street in Camden, just south (actually west) of the Cooper St. - Rutgers station. Cooper Street and Delaware Avenue both have four lanes; the tracks run in the curb lanes so that passengers can board directly from station platrforms along the curb.

[picture] The Cooper St. - Rutgers station in Camden is typical of River LINE stations, with a semi-enclosed shelter and ticket vending machines. Note the bird sculptures on the roof.

[picture] A Trenton-bound train poses at the Walter Rand Transportation Center.

[picture] Some cars are "wrapped" with pictures of landmarks along the line.

[picture] The Walter Rand Transportation Center provides an easy connection to the Brodway station of the PATCO rapid-transit line to Philadelphia and Lindenwold.

[picture] Much of the line runs on single track. Entering Riverside from the south, the line switches from single to double track.

[picture] In Riverside, the line passes the former Watchcase headquarters building, which is pictured on one of the trains [picture].

[picture] In downtown Burlington, the line runs in a single track on a reserved right of way down the middle of Broad Street.

[picture] Two trains side by side at the Trenton terminal. The one on the left has just arrived; the one on the right will leave in a few minutes. At the right is an entrance to the NJT/Amtrak Northeast Corridor train station across the street.

[picture] Interior of a car, looking towards the front. This train had a full load of passengers, many of whom were probably just out on an excursion to check out the new line. The hooks at the top of the window on the left are for hanging up bicycles, which can be wheeled easily into the low-floor vestibule.

[picture] A large window between the passenger area and the driver's compartment provides an excellent view forward.

[picture] Looking towards the rear of a less-populated train (laying over at the Entertainment Center), we can see the garish purple seats more clearly, and the passageway through the center section of the train, which contains the diesel-electric generators.

[picture] A ticket vending machine on the platform at the Entertainment Center station in Camden. NJT's Hudson-Bergen light rail line and Newark City Subway use similar machines.

This page was last updated on 6 September 2004, and links checked on 27 April 2009.

Presbyterian College > Academic Web Server > Jon Bell > Transit > (Cities | Types) > Camden / Trenton

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