New Jersey has some of the country’s best statewide public transit systems. Unfortunately, this isn’t really saying much. Nationwide, the United States lacks effective and widespread public transportation thanks to the historically automobile-centered planning of the US highway system. As a result, it is extremely difficult for Americans, and even New Jerseyans to get around without a car. This is even true along one of NJ transits most used sectors, the Northeast Corridor.
This corridor, identified by a train line that runs from Trenton to New York Penn Station, provides important commuter transportation to thousands of travelers a day. It’s stops include New Brunswick, Princeton Junction, Hamilton, Edison, and many others. Although this provides a method of transportation to the city much easier and sustainable than driving, it still faces one important problem: transportation to the station itself. Not as much of a problem in more dense areas like New Brunswick, Northeast Corridor stops in the south are extremely difficult to access without an automobile. Although this cuts down on automobile use, it still requires it. Stops like Hamilton and Princeton Junction, due to constant demand, are continuously expanding parking areas in order to accommodate
What can we do differently? Although measures are already in place to promote alternative forms of transportation to the stations, there are hardly any structural changes. For example, I assessed how long it would take to reach the Hamilton train station from my home in Robbinsville. A trip that takes approximately 14 minutes by car takes over 1 hour by public transit (25 minutes of walking, and bus). This is absolutely absurd, contradicts the goals of public transportation. According to Contemporary Urban Planning, public transit, in theory, should lead to more convenient travel than automobiles because of affordability, and road decongestion. According to the accessibility provided by NJ transit, public transportation is often more of an inconvenience, taking much longer than driving. This inconvenience makes it difficult for people to make necessary travels to their workplaces, especially those who can’t afford automobiles.
Unfortunately, there is little that NJ Transit can do to solve this dilemma. Historically, law makers at federal and state levels have always favored the expansion of highway systems and the promotion of automobiles. This makes new public transit developments nearly impossible because they find it difficult to obtain the federal and state backing that highways do. This creates the “last mile problem”, but on a much larger level. Because the idea of public transportation is inclusion and accessibility, structures should not only cater to those who have an automobile.
Of the many thousands who commute to these northeast corridor train stations, many rely on automobile to get there. This is evidence that there is a demand for a more thorough bus system to transport commuters to the station. For example, many of Robbinsville’s workforce commute to either New York City, or Philadelphia by train. Transportation would be exponentially more efficient if these travelers had access to a bus that makes this trip even easier.
As a country, as we seek more sustainable and inclusive transportation habits, we must not overlook the demand for thorough public transportation.