The Hamilton Rail Station, operated by New Jersey Transit in Hamilton New Jersey, is a unique example of interconnected infrastructure that benefits its surrounding community in several ways. While it does not offer the same extent of rail coverage as Trenton does, lacking service for Amtrak and SEPTA operations, it still sees extensive use by commuters. The technical term for this type of station is an intermodal complex, meaning different methods of travel are available here. This is particularly evident by the vast amounts of parking and public transportation services offered in and around the station. In addition, the station resides in a very accessible location, minutes off of US Interstate 295 in New Jersey.

 

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Fig. 1: Sloan Ave. heading towards I-295. A New Jersey Transit 606 bus is seen on the left exiting the highway

Sloan Avenue, the major road upon which the station resides, is a major thruway of Mercer county and offers connections to many other destinations in the state. Aside from connecting to I-295, Sloan also meets with Klockner Rd, Quakerbridge Rd, and NJ Route 33, among others to some capacity. US Route 1 is minutes away on the interstate, and many local destinations are within reach. New Jersey Transit bus lines 606 and 608 service this station and cover a vast extent of Mercer county, including places such as Princeton, Hamilton Marketplace, and Trenton. By offering a dedicated bus stop immediately alongside the platform, commuters are connected directly with their respective trains within minutes of arrival. This is certainly a strength of execution for the station, and integrates well into the community that it serves.

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Fig. 2: The primary intersection for entry into the station is fed into this point from Sloan Ave., however most people exiting will have to utilize the adjacent road in order to return in the East-bound direction

As is common with many large scale road interchanges, there are usually multiple roadways leading in different directions in order to facilitate better flow of traffic. This is the case at the rail station, where the entrance and exit roads both offer incoming and outgoing traffic, but prioritize one or the other. This creates a flow of traffic that functions in essence as a loop through the entire facility. Unfortunately, the main shortcoming with this design is that when built, it was not labeled or marked with signage very clearly, and as result frequently confuses drivers who have not visited before. As a result, it requires some preface or understanding of the layout of the station to ensure the least chaotic commute possible. This is certainly a defined weakness of the station, but fortunately a redesign is a very plausible possibility should the need arise down the road (especially given projected expansion of the Northeast Corridor in the next 15 years). Additionally, the demolished factory across the road will eventually see re-purposing into a new residential community, which will be an immense benefit to the station.

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Fig. 3: A common sight from the taxi stand and drop-off area, with cars coming from two directions on a narrow road alongside the station platform. Generally traffic is very slow through here

Another issue with this station, also revolving around the flow of traffic and pedestrians, is the immediate drop off area adjacent to the primary atrium. As with the rest of the transit operations outside the station platform, this area relies on a consistent flow of traffic in and out of the area. Unfortunately by limiting the direction of turns and having only a narrow road that is often shared with a taxi stand, it can become chaotic very quickly when attempting to enter or leave the station area. People walking on foot must be cognizant of where they are going, especially given the numerous blind spots created by standing cars and station awnings. This issue stems back to the previous problem is confusing layout, where drivers (and even cabs) can wind up making an accidental illegal turn, or becoming trapped among other drivers in what should be a relatively simple interchange.

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Fig. 4: A view from the station’s walking overpass, looking towards the New York direction. The parking deck and the connecting road is clearly visible here.

Hamilton Rail Station features an expansive parking deck, with five levels of space for monthly and short term parking users. This deck saves a large amount of space that would otherwise be spread out around the station, which would in turn create more road traffic. In addition, the position and access points of this parking deck are conducive to a very efficient method of travel from car, to platform, to train. In the four tracks shown above in the picture, the leftmost two are dedicated to trains towards Trenton, while the right two are for trains towards New York. This is also evidence of intelligent design of the station, as the bulk of commuters are heading “northbound” towards New York and can immediately exit the parking deck and be on the correct side of the tracks to board their train. This synergy of transportation methods is unlike most others in the area; Trenton and Princeton Junction both involve more complicated layouts that result in a more convoluted transition for commuters.

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Fig. 5: A panoramic view of the main parking lot, with the drop-off area and waiting zone in the lower half, and the monthly parking further out in the upper half.

Sources: http://www.njtransit.com for bus route information and station technical details

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